Punjab CM’s Wish list: Fiscal package, tests at private hospitals and labs, extension of flights’ ban

Expressing grave concern over the escalating COVID-19 crisis, Punjab Chief Minister Capt. Amarinder Singh on Friday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a fiscal package to combat the crisis and for permission to get tests done at private hospitals and labs in the state.

Taking part in the deliberations during a video conference convened by the Prime Minister with all the Chief Ministers to review the situation, Captain Amarinder said there was urgent need to scale up the testing for the Coronavirus, and hence the Centre should immediately allow reputed private medical colleges and super-specialty hospitals.

Captain Amarinder Singh also suggested that ICMR should be allowed testing of close contacts of confirmed cases even without symptoms.

He also requested the Prime Minister to immediately extend the travel ban on international flights for two weeks instead of one to prevent continued entry of NRIs into Punjab, and to enable the government to track and test all those who had already come in.

Captain Amarinder also urged the Prime Minister to allow payment of wages to NREGA workers who could come to work as a preventive measures in view of COVID-19.

The Chief Minister further recommended that additional 5 Kgs of wheat per person should be provided under Food Security Mission to help out the people in this hour of crisis. He also suggested that the Center should soon come out with a comprehensive proposal to mitigate the adverse economic impact of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Captain Amarinder Singh assured the Prime Minister that the State Government was fully prepared to combat any exigency arising out of COVID-19. He said the entire State machinery, especially the Health Department, was geared to provide the best possible treatment to the symptomatic patients, who are under treatment in various Government Hospitals.

Apprising the Prime Minister about the current status, Captain Amarinder Singh said that so far three positive cases have been detected and one person had died (patient confirmed positive post-death). Of the total 140 test results, test reports in 18 cases were awaited. As many as 96,273 travelers have been screened at Mohali and Amritsar airports , as well as the Amritsar Wagah/Attari Border Check Post and Dera Baba Nanak Check Post in Gurdaspur. A total of 1454 travelers have been Home Quarantined, 47 Government Quarantined and 18 are in Hospital Isolation.

 Elaborating the measures taken so far to meet any contingency in view of this deadly virus, the Chief Minister said that the Punjab Epidemic Diseases, COVID-19 Regulations, 2020 have been notified under the Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897 on March 05, 2020. Likewise, a Group of Ministers was also set up under his Chairmanship to review the entire situation on day to day basis. He also mentioned about the State COVID-19 Management Group at the State Level and District COVID-19 Management Groups set up at District level to monitor the situation meticulously, so that the disease does not spread any more. Captain Amarinder Singh also stated that tracing is being done for all travelers from overseas in line with directions of Government of India and such contacts are kept under surveillance to break the transmission chain.

On the Isolation/Quarantine measures, the Chief Minister briefed Prime Minister as many as 16,890 beds have been earmarked for Quarantine besides 2800 hospital beds for Isolation identified in Government & Private facilities and 28 Ventilators have been made available at District level (14 in District hospitals and 14 in GMCs).

As a precautionary measure, all educational institutions (Government or Private) have been closed till 31st March, 2020, and State Board Examinations have been deferred till further orders. To prevent people from visiting congested and crowded places, all Malls, Restaurants, Cinema Halls, Gyms, Swimming Pools, Marriage Palaces have been closed till further orders. Public gatherings, including sports events, conferences, cultural events, fairs and exhibitions, have been prohibited till further orders.

Further, restrictions of upto maximum of 20 persons in social, religious and political gatherings have been strictly imposed. Likewise, orders under Section 144 Cr.P.C. have been issued, and public service vehicles including e-Rickshaws and auto-rickshaws except maxi cabs/motor cabs are prohibited from plying across the State till 31st March, 2020. Advisory on avoiding non-essential visits to Government offices and public places has also been issued. The Government has also appealed to all religious heads to ask their devotees to follow Government directions on social distancing and observe health safeguards.