CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Saturday recommended extension of the national lockdown by at least a fortnight, while suggesting a slew of health and relief measures to the people in the state’s COVID-19 battle, in addition to special concessions for industry and agriculture sectors on an urgent basis.
Participating in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Video Conference with all the Chief Ministers, Amarinder Singh pointed out that there was huge uncertainty about the likely incidence of disease and the nation was in for a long fight. Given the trend in China and several European countries, it was necessary to continue the lockdown, he said, adding that though the restrictions were causing a lot of hardship to the people, India could not afford to take any chances.
The people of Punjab have a high morale, and will continue to support government efforts to combat the pandemic, he added. Amarinder informed the meeting that the state government had already decided to go for curfew and complete lockdown till May 1, with all educational institutions to be closed till June 30, with state board examinations also deferred till further orders. Section 144 remains in place, along with prohibition of public service vehicles till May 1.
Pointing to the excellent work being done by these people in the current crisis, the CM sought a Special Risk Insurance for all government employees, including police personnel, sanitation workers and all other employees, who are working day and night to help ameliorate the miseries and stress of common man in these trying times. It was important for the Centre and States to keep the morale of people and frontline workers (Health staff, police. Sanitation workers, etc) high, he stressed.
Underlining the need to substantially increase the number of tests being done and go for rapid testing, at least in the state’s hotspot areas of Nawanshahar, Dera Bassi and Mohali, he said the Central Government should hasten supplies of required testing kits. It may be noted that the state has ordered 10 lakh such kits from ICMR, while raising inquiry about another 10,000 in the open market. He also asked for early permission for testing in DMC and CMC Ludhiana, as already requested to the Union Health Minister. He further requested Rs 500 crore for quick upgradation of infrastructure of government hospitals in Punjab, which is currently at stage 2 of the pandemic and has a large NRI population. He also called for speedy approval, on priority basis, by the Centre to the state’s proposal for Rs 550 crore project to set up an Advanced Centre for Virology in Punjab.
On the relief measures needed urgently in the light of the current crisis, the Chief Minister urged the Union Government to defer recovery, and waiver of interest and penalties, on industrial loans for six months. Emphasising that the industrial establishments could not continue to look after their workers, and even pay their salaries for the period of lockdown, for a long time.