CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday evening said the coronavirus lockdown in the state will continue till May 31, though his government will lift the curfew restrictions.
"From May 18, there will be no curfew in the state. But the lockdown will be there till May 31," said the chief minister in a live Facebook interaction as part of his #AskCaptain initiative.
He further indicated the resumption of limited public transport services and the "maximum possible relaxation" in the non-containment zones from May 18.
He said the state government will announce more relaxations from May 18 but sought the support of people in containing the COVID-19 spread in the state.
The containment zones will be sealed to enable the resumption of shops and small businesses in non-containment areas, the CM announced, adding that lockdown details will be announced by Monday after going through guidelines of the Centre.
The CM, however, said educational institutions will remain closed.
"There is not going to be any fee hike in fee this year by private schools," the CM added.
Singh said in its suggestions to the Union Home Minister, as sought by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the state has recommended that the nationwide lockdown should be extended till May 31 in a relaxed form.
The chief minister said the state government has asked the Union government for a simpler categorization of containment zones.
He said at present, a district as a whole is a single zone or at the most, there are two units-- municipal and non-municipal corporation area.
COVID-19 cases in one part of a district can result in classification of the entire district as red zone, putting severe restrictions on industry and shops, he noted, underlining the need to scrap this system and go for a "containment-focused strategy".
The CM said the daily number of new cases in the state has come down in the past four days or so after a recent surge in the wake of the arrival of pilgrims from Nanded and students from Kota.
He thanked people for their cooperation, "enabling the state to control infection cases, whose doubling rate is now 44 days against several other states, such as Maharashtra's 11 days".
However, the numbers can go up as more migrant labourers and NRIs enter Punjab, he warned, adding that 60,000 Punjabis from other states and 20,000 from abroad have registered for return as of now.
The chief minister made it clear that his government will continue to pay for migrants wanting to go back home.
"Seventeen to 18 trains ferry migrants daily from Punjab," he said, adding that 13 lakh migrant workers are in the state.
No effort will be spared to ensure that no person goes hungry, he declared, agreeing that over one crore food packets distributed so far were not sufficient and more needed to be done on this count.
Responding to a question, the CM said it was not possible to further advance paddy cultivation date from June 10 to June 1 as it may lead to higher moisture content in grains at the time of harvesting in August.
On the promise of providing one lakh jobs announced in the budget, he said the process will soon start.
The CM again urged the Opposition not to indulge in "petty politics" over the issue of COVID-19, and to cooperate with the state government in the hour of crisis.
Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday said his government has suggested the Centre to resume air, railways and inter-state bus services with reduced capacity.
However, the state is not in the favour of the resumption of teaching in educational institutions till May 31, the chief minister said.
Other suggestions of the state government, listed by the chief minister, include allowing shops to open in all market and market complexes in a staggered manner, resumption of industry and construction activities in urban areas without any restriction, as well as permitting e-commerce for all commodities.
"The state government, in its recommendations to the Centre, has pitched for the resumption of air, railways and inter-state bus services with reduced capacity, as well as starting of intra-district and inter-district buses, taxis, cabs, rickshaws, auto-rickshaws with adequate preparedness in terms of reduced capacity and a screen between passengers and driver," Singh said in a statement here.
Offices, both private and government, may be allowed to open for the entire week during normal office hours with staggered timings to avoid over-crowding, the state government suggested.
The chief minister said the state government wanted no restrictions on the movement of individuals from 5 am to 7 pm, and had suggested that restrictions, if any, may be imposed between 7 pm and 5 am.
The Punjab government is in the favour of continued prohibition of activities where there would be a sizeable crowd under one roof, as in the case of shopping malls, cinemas, marriage and banquet halls, social, political and cultural gatherings and religious places.
Singh said all efforts would be made to ensure that a maximum number of shops and businesses open up after May 18.
Meanwhile, a state official said on Saturday that over 200 trains will carry migrant workers to their native states from Punjab in the next 10 days.
The officials said till now, over 1.80 lakh workers have been in sent to their native places from the state in 150 special trains.
"By facilitating the return of over 1,80,000 migrant workers to their home states through 150 special trains, Punjab has ensured those wishing to go back are united with their families without any hardship," said Nodal Officer Vikas Pratap Singh in an official release here.
He, however, said the state government has been working round the clock to provide relief to workers.
The mammoth exercise has so far cost the exchequer Rs 10 crore, he said.
The Punjab government has planned to send over 200 trains in the next 10 days and the numbers will increase in the near future, Singh said.
Punjab is likely to send over 20 trains daily, he added.
Of the 150 trains already sent, 57 ferried migrant workers from Ludhiana while 45 trains were run from Jalandhar.
Other places from where trains departed include Amritsar, Patiala, Mohali, Bathinda, Ferozepur and Sirhind.
"We are in the process of commencing trains from Doraha too," he said.
The maximum trains are going to Uttar Pradesh followed by Bihar and Jharkhand.
Trains are also being sent to Chhattisgarh, Manipur, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.
Assuring the state's commitment to go the extra mile to mitigate their sufferings, Singh said food, water and other essentials are also being provided to all those traveling back home.