CHANDIGARH: The Punjab government on Saturday announced distribution of free food packets to poor families who do not want to get themselves tested for coronavirus for fear of isolation impacting their meagre earnings.
The decision was taken by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to encourage COVID-19 testing amid rising number of cases and deaths due to the disease in the state, a government release said here.
He said the distribution of free food packets would encourage poor families to go for early testing, which was imperative to check the spread of the pandemic and control the increasing fatality rate in Punjab.
The programme will start from Patiala, one of the worst affected districts, he said.
The chief minister also directed other districts to make similar arrangements for poor coronavirus patients in home isolation so that they get motivated to come out for testing and do not live in fear of losing their earnings during isolation, the release said.
Accepting the suggestion of Punjab Congress chief Sunil Jakhar, Singh said District Congress Committees (DCCs) and local MLAs will help the district administration in the distribution of such packets.
He was chairing a virtual meeting with elected representatives, including state ministers and MLAs, as well as senior officials.
This is the first of such meetings the CM plans to hold to fight the malicious propaganda being spread over COVID-19 in villages.
Noting that people were also scared of hospitalisation, Singh said his government was encouraging home isolation to combat this fear and had also decided to remove posters or stickers from outside the homes of patients to end the stigma attached to their isolation.
The senior Congress leader also asked the ministers to visit hospitals in the districts represented by them, and urged them to encourage party leaders and workers to be more active in combating the pandemic.
Stating that nobody knew how long the pandemic would last, he stressed the need to be prepared for a tough and long-drawn battle.
Singh assured that despite the financial crunch, all necessary funds would be made available by his government to fight the pandemic.
Punjab's COVID-19 tally stands at 61,527 cases with 1,808 deaths.