In the wake of fall in state’s positivity rate to two percent and squeezing number of active cases, Punjab Government on Tuesday eased COVID-19 restrictions announcing opening of restaurants, cinemas, gyms at 50 percent capacity; increasing limit on gatherings to 50 persons; while deciding to continue with the daily night curfew and weekend curfew across the State.
Under the new guidelines, which will remain in effect from June 16 till June 25 when they will be again reviewed, the daily night curfew will be in place from 8 pm to 5 am, with weekend curfew from 8 pm on Saturday up to 5 am on Monday. However, all essential activities, including those covered under existing ‘exemptions’, will remain unaffected, unhindered, and exempted from the curfew restrictions.
Chairing a high-level virtual COVID review meeting, the Chief Minister ordered opening of all restaurants (including in hotels), cafes, coffee shops, fast food outlets, dhabas, etc, cinemas, gyms at maximum 50 percent of capacity, “subject to all their employees having received at least one dose of vaccination”.
However, bars, pubs and ‘ahatas’ shall continue to remain closed.
Besides, the closure of all educational institutions, that is schools and colleges, will also continue as per the new guidelines, which also allows plying of the AC buses with 50 percent occupation.
District authorities have been asked to determine opening timings of non-essential shops, including on Sunday, on the basis of the local situation, while ensuring that crowds are avoided. District Authorities will also continue to ensure strict implementation of all existing directives of the Union Ministry of Home Affairs and the State Government on COVID appropriate behaviour, including social or physical distancing, wearing of face masks etc.
PUNJAB’S DAILY GROWTH RATE - 9.2% AS OF JUNE 14: REPORT
The announcements came as the state’s Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, citing a University of Cambridge Judge Business School report of June 14 on Growth of Infection in Punjab, told the meeting that based on its findings, all districts are on downward trajectories for new cases.
“The estimated trend value of the daily growth rate was - 9.2 percent as of June 14, 2021. This implies that reported new cases will halve in seven days, under the assumption that the growth rate remains constant. As of June 14, 2021, the estimated reproduction number Rt for Punjab stood at 0.69, significantly below one. Newly reported COVID-19 cases are likely to decline to about 210 per day by June 28, 2021,” she added.
Mahajan said: “Further, while numbers of cases are low, there are indications that the growth rates of cases, while negative, have recently reversed direction from their downward paths in Fazilka, Jalandhar, and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar. The projected number of deaths by June 28 stands at 21.”
The state had hit its second wave peak on May 8, with 9,100 cases, which had come down to a low of 629 on June 14.
Giving details of curfew exemptions, an official spokesperson later said that all the exemptions from COVID restrictions are subject to observing COVID appropriate behaviour by all concerned.
EXPERT PANEL TO STUDY VACCINES’ EFFECTIVENESS IN CONTEXT OF NEW COVID VARIANTS
Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh directed the Expert Group, headed by Dr Gagandeep Kang, to start studying the effectiveness of vaccines in the context of the new variants of the coronavirus.
The month-wise whole genome sequencing has shown that while in the month of March, 95 percent of the problem was due to the UK variant; in April 2021, the Delta variant starting increasing and by May, it had become dominant, reaching nearly 90 percent, he said.
It was also a matter of concern that the Brazil Variant (B1) had increased from one percent in April and now stood at eight percent, pointed the Chief Minister at the COVID review meet. He underlined the need to get more samples analyzed to have a clear picture and formulate a proper strategy.
The state’s advisor Dr KK Talwar said that an expert group was being constituted to analyze the audit of patients who had been on ventilator during the second wave to provide learnings for the future.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan disclosed that Dr Talwar was trying to arrange for genome sampling in Patiala’s Rajindra Hospital.
TRACK ALL BLACK FUNGUS CASES: CM
The Chief Minister also ordered tracking of all Black Fungus (Mucormycosis) cases, which currently stand at 441 cases in the state. Of these, 51 have already been cured and 308 are undergoing treatment, the meeting was informed. Of the 441 total cases, 388 were from Punjab and the remaining from other states, the state’s Health Secretary Hussan Lal told the meeting. There is an adequate supply of drugs for treatment of the disease, he added.
SCALE-UP PREPARATION FOR THIRD WAVE: CM
Calling for timely preventive steps against a possible third wave of Covid, through identification of early signs, the Chief Minister directed the Health and Medical Education Departments to continue testing at about 50,000 a day. Contact tracing and testing must be maintained at 15 per positive patient, he said, while also stressing the need to strengthen the monitoring and management of home isolation cases. The Chief Minister also ordered steps to ensure adequate supplies of testing kits, medicines, Fateh kits etc, with proper healthcare services to be maintained, especially in rural areas and small towns. “We should consider placing Fateh kits in each Health and Wellness Centre and other facilities, to ensure timely availability,” he added.
EXEMPTED FROM COVID RESTRICTIONS
· Hospitals, veterinary hospitals and all establishments, both in public and private sector, related to manufacture and supply of all medicines and medical equipment including the manufacturing and distribution units such as dispensaries, chemist and pharmacy (including Jan Aushadhi Kendras), laboratories, pharmaceutical research labs, clinics, nursing homes, ambulances etc
· Transportation of all personnel of these establishments shall be allowed subject, however, to production of identity cards
· Shops dealing with supply of essential goods, milk, dairy and poultry products like bread, eggs, meat etc and vegetables, fruits etc
· Shops or establishments selling industrial materials including raw materials, intermediaries as well as shops or establishments engaged in export and import activities
· Activities or establishments related to fisheries such as fish, meat, and its products including supply of fish seeds
· To and fro movement of passengers travelling by air, trains, and buses on production of travel documents
· Inter and intra state movement of all vehicles or persons carrying essential and non-essential goods
· Delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment etc through e-Commerce
· Construction activities in both urban and rural areas
· Agricultural including procurement, horticultural, animal husbandry and veterinary services
· Vaccinations out-reach camps
· Activities of manufacturing industry, commercial and private establishments and services given below including movement of all their employees or workers and vehicles carrying them upon production of requisite permission from their employers:
a) Telecommunication, internet services, broadcasting and cable services. IT and IT enabled services
b) Delivery of all essential goods including food, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment etc through e-Commerce
c) Petrol pumps and petroleum products, LPG, petroleum and gas retail and storage outlets, coal, firewood and other fuels
d) Power generation, transmission and distribution units and services
e) Cold storage and warehousing services
f) Private security services
g) Farming operations by farmers and farm workers in the field
h) All Banking or RBI services, ATMs, Cash Vans and cash handling or distribution services.