Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Saturday said the decision on further extension of lockdown in the state beyond June 30 would depend on the situation but he was prepared to take whatever steps needed to control the Covid spread.“It is in your hands,” he told a Ludhiana resident during the #AskCaptain Facebook Live session, adding “if we are able to control the pandemic then there would be no need for lockdown but if it goes out of control then we have no choice.” “Lockdowns were imposed for the safety of Punjab’s people,” he added.With the Coronavirus cases spreading across the country, the Chief Minister said the norm of wearing mask in public had to be strictly adhered to. He appealed to the people of Punjab not to violate this and other safety protocols, and said there should be no need for challans on this count to happen as everyone should act responsibly. He pointed out that on Friday alone, 4024 people were challaned for not wearing masks and 45 for spitting in public. Not wearing masks or following social distance norms or spitting were anti-social actions, he said, urging people to be cautious and follow all protocols and the advice of medical experts to check the cases from escalating further.Noting with concern that experts had projected Punjab’s peak to be still some time away, Captain Amarinder said the state could not afford to be lax in any way. On its part, the state government was continuously increasing testing, he said, adding, in response to a question from a Hoshiarpur resident, that testing in Punjab would go up to 20000 a day by the end of this month. He agreed with the questioner that the lower testing in Punjab, as compared to Delhi, had to be addressed, and disclosed that four more testing labs had already been approved by his cabinet, which will help scale up testing two-fold over the next few days.
To a question on overcharging of Covid patients by private hospitals, the Chief Minister said the state government was in the process of fixing the rates. Members of the medical association wanted to meet him to discuss the issue, he said, adding that while he would be meeting them, he would definitely not allow profiteering in the state at the cost of the people’s lives and health in these testing times. He further pointed out that all treatment and medicines for Covid was being provided free of cost in government hospitals.Asked for a decision on cancellation of examinations in universities and colleges, as had already been announced by some states, the Chief Minister said the Vice Chancellors will be meeting the Education Department, which will also seek the University Grant Commission’s directions in the matter. The final decision will be taken within two -three days accordingly, he said, in response to a question by a Gurdaspur student seeking cancellation of GNDU examinations.In response to a Ludhiana resident’s request for cancellation of online classes to provide summer vacations in schools, the Chief Minister said the vacations had already been adjusted against the time lost due to the lockdown and no more holidays could be given.Stressing the importance of continued education in the highly competitive world of today, he told another questioner that he wanted every Punjabi kid to study and the schools would reopen as soon as the current crisis was over.
To a request for opening of gyms, the Chief Minister said the decision was in the hands of the central government since the National Disaster Act was in force. Observing that he had till date received 1700 questions on this issue, he pointed out that chances of contamination were high in gyms. He advised the youngsters to exercise in the open till it was safe to open the gyms.Responding to a concern expressed by a Pathankot resident of all depositors losing their hard-earned money in the Hindu Cooperative Bank, Captain Amarinder said the department had already deputed an officer to probe the matter. He assured the depositors that their investment would stay safe.On long power cuts in Abohar, he said he will ask the Electricity Board for details and resolve the problem.When a Punjabi living in Canada requested that the chimneys at the Bathinda power plant should not be dismantled but should be handed over to the Heritage Department, the Chief Minister promised to look into it and said the state government was also keen to protect the heritage. On a Batala farmer’s request for release of subsidy amount to enable him to replace paddy with maize under the maize planter subsidy scheme to replace paddy, the Chief Minister said permissions were in the process of being given for availing subsidy of 40% available on the machinery.On the recruitment to 1190 patwari posts by the SSSB, the Chief Minister allayed the concerns of an Amritsar resident to assure that the interviews would be held soon.The Chief Minister agreed to take up with the state cabinet the issue of raising the upper age for recruitment of DSPs and Sub Inspector from 28 to 32 years for general category.On a Ludhiana resident’s request to name the upcoming Halwara airport after Shaheed Kartar Singh Sarabha, as had been done for the Ludhiana-Pakhowal Road, he said it could not be done by the state government. His government will send a proposal to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, he said, adding that they had also sent a similar proposal to rename Mohali airport as Shaheed Bhagat Singh airport.