CHANDIGARH: The total number of coronavirus cases reached 554 in Punjab as 14 more cases were reported today morning from Mohali and Ferozepur. All the 22 districts in the state have now have confirmed COVID-19 cases and 156 among them are of pilgrims who returned from Hazur Sahib at Nanded in Maharashtra.
The state health department was caught napping as it had no strategy to deal with the pilgrims entering Punjab especially from Maharashtra which is one of the worst affected states of the country. as far as coronavirus cases are concerned. It was on April 27, two days after the first batch of pilgrims entered the state, that the guidelines to quarantine the pilgrims were issued. However, the damage has already been done by then as more than 500 pilgrims had entered the state by April 27 evening.
Blaming the Maharashtra government for not testing the pilgrims at Nanded itself before sending them back, Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said the Thackeray government also did not share the information on private vehicles being used by pilgrims.
So far, 3525 pilgrims from Nanded and 153 students from Kota (Rajasthan) had returned to Punjab in the last four days, in addition to 3085 labourers received at the Fazilka-Rajasthan border. Raising questions over the state government's actions, Akal Takth (Highest temporal seat of Sikhs) Jathedar (High Priest) Harpreet Singh asked for one and half months the devotees were at Nanded and there was no issue, but once they came into the state how they got affected.
"The Punjab government should have conducted the medical examinations of all these devotees before bringing them back. This is a big lapse on part of the government as the guidelines issued to fight COVID-19 have been violated. Thus now a high-level inquiry should be conducted to bring the truth out,’’ he said.
He also said that the Sikhs are doing community service to fight this pandemic so their grim picture should not be painted as it has been done in case of Tablighi Jamaat as section of society has already started a wilful campaign.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh has attributed the infections to three sources – NRIs, Nizamuddin Tablighi Jamaat and Nanded returnees. While Punjabis returning home were welcome, they had to strictly follow self-quarantine for 21-days, he said, directing the officials to ensure not to allow any unauthorised entry at the borders.
"If we do not control the situation, no industry will open," he warned. These pilgrims belonging to different parts of the state have now returned back in batches as the state government took special permission from the Centre to send 80 air-conditioned Volvo buses to get them back.