Chandigarh/Bengaluru: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has announced a complete lockdown of the state beyond Sunday’s ‘janata curfew’, to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Punjab’s decision follows that of neighbouring Rajasthan, which announced a complete lockdown from 22 to 31 March.
Karnataka, meanwhile, has decided to seal its borders from Sunday to “break the chain” and prevent community spread of the coronavirus. The state shares borders with Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh.
Punjab steps up after spike in cases
The Punjab government is yet to issue more details about the total lockdown, but had announced a partial lockdown in the state Saturday in the Jalandhar, Patiala, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, Bathinda and Nawanshahr districts.
The number of total COVID-19 positive cases had spiked from three to 13 Saturday, and several hundred primary and secondary contacts of the patients had been put on home quarantine.
In an emergent meeting of the state chief secretary Karan Avtar Singh with deputy commissioners Saturday, it is learnt that the top official had said the national lockdown owing to PM Modi’s call for a ‘janata curfew’ Sunday should be implemented, since it could be a “good precursor” to similar restrictions that may be imposed later.
The chief secretary also ordered mandatory quarantine for every passenger who has arrived in Punjab from a foreign country since 16 March, adding that the door-to-door awareness campaign the government had launched has now been stopped.
Six of the 10 new cases confirmed Saturday are family members of a 70-year-old man from Nawanshahr district who died due to complications arising out of COVID-19 and a history of diabetes and hypertension.
The other new cases include a 42-year-old woman from Mohali’s Sector 69 who had recently returned from the UK. Meanwhile, a 28-year-old employee of a car agency in Mohali, who had travelled with Chandigarh’s first coronavirus patient from the Amritsar airport too has been found to be positive.
Karnataka to distribute free rations for 2 months
Meanwhile, Karnataka, which has 20 positive COVID-19 cases, has sealed its borders after government officials raised concerns about how the rising number of cases in neighbouring states may contribute towards the spread of the COVID-19 epidemic, as panic has been forcing people to return to their hometowns.
“Many are heading back to their hometowns, but they do not realise that by using public transport, they are increasing the risks. This decision (to seal borders) will ensure that people don’t indulge in panic travel,” said a government official on condition of anonymity.
Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa has announced free rations for the next two months will be distributed at one go, to ensure there is no shortage of essential supplies.
“There is no need for people to stock up; free rations for the next two months will be distributed to all. There will be no shortage,” he assured while speaking to the media after an emergency meeting held with Dr Devi Shetty, chairman of Narayana Health, state home minister Basavaraj Bommai, and deputy CMs Dr Ashwath Narayan and Dr C. Sudhakar.
The government has also set up a 24×7 war room to coordinate and provide help for those in need during this crisis.
“We ask people not to travel to villages from cities for the next 15 days,” said Yediyurappa, adding that Bengaluru’s 1,700-bed Victoria Hospital has been earmarked exclusively for the testing and treatment of coronavirus-afflicted patients.
“We have sought permission to test for COVID-19 in more number of government and private hospitals with the help of Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and National Institute of Virology (NIV).”
Until now, Karnataka had been screening only international passengers at the airports, but will now screen domestic passengers at all airports. The state is on a partial lockdown until 31 March, with just essential services functioning.
Yediyurappa also announced that the Secondary School Leaving Certificate exams will now be held at a later date, but the pre-university exams Monday will be held as scheduled.
To ensure social distancing, Bengaluru’s Namma Metro has curtailed the use of its services, and requested people not to travel unless they are associated with essential services.
The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagar Palike (BBMP) has started random checking to keep a watch on people who violate home quarantine, and has dispatched squads to stamp people who have come from abroad.