Amid easing of restrictions, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday announced that those flying in from abroad with Covid negative certificates up to 96 hours old can now go for home quarantine.International travellers who getting themselves tested on arrival at the airport, as part of the Government of India’s new directives, can also go home for quarantine if found negative, he said, adding that Punjab was currently at the 17th position in the country in terms of Covid cases.The Chief Minister said after the decline in testing due to rumour mongering and fake propaganda, the number of Covid tests had again touched around 28000 per day as the police had cracked down heavily on miscreants spreading misinformation in the state. Pointing out that 28,688 tests were conducted yesterday, he said the figures would be raised to 30000 soon. The focus of the state government is on saving lives, for which early testing is essential, he added.The anti-social elements are defaming Punjab, he said, adding that claims of organ harvesting of deceased Covid patients were totally incorrect and illogical, said the Chief Minister, warning of strict action against such miscreants.“We have to effectively counter such campaigns,” he told the third group of Congress MLAs as part of his series of Video Conferences with party legislators and ministers to discuss the Covid situation. He asked the ministers and MLAs to visit their districts and constituencies to take stock of the ground situation over the next three days. With the peak expected in the state in the next two weeks, it was important for the elected representatives and officials to work together to tackle the crisis, he said.
Slamming the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for its concerted campaign to spread misinformation in Punjab on Covid, the Chief Minister said despite its lower population, Delhi, which is ruled by AAP, has reported worse data on the pandemic. They (AAP) have made it a subject of competition, he said, adding that this was shocking. Nowhere has such a thing happened, and in fact the Congress has been supporting state governments across the country in their fight against Covid, in sharp contrast to AAP and the Akalis who are trying to derail the Punjab government’s efforts, he added.Captain Amarinder asked the MLAs to work with Panchayats to identify the rumour mongers and to activate party workers to check the spread of negative propaganda on Covid.The MLAs demanded strict police action against vicious social media campaigns that were clearly aimed at discrediting the state government. All the MLAs wanted the Chief Minister to order a strict crackdown on fake IDs on social media defaming Punjab and indulging in character assassination of MLAs and the state government. Captain Amarinder told the members he had already directed the DGP to ensure strict action against web channels spreading misinformation and would speak to the central government as well as the US ambassador over foreign web channels reportedly engaged in such negative propaganda.The MLAs came out with various suggestions to counter the false propaganda against the state government and to better manage the crisis. These included involvement of Panchayats for management of Covid positive patients in villages and setting up of district level anti-rumour squads of police and civic officials to check the spread of rumours.The Chief Minister expressed concern over the fact that people continued to violate guidelines by not wearing masks and not maintaining social distance even in the seventh month of the pandemic. They are risking not just their own lives but those of their families too, he said, adding that it was the duty of all, not just as politicians but as citizens, to spread the message among the people. To promote, free distribution of food packets for poor patients in isolation had started in Patiala, with other districts to follow, said Captain Amarinder. He further said that the process of distribution of free Covid kits to 50000 Covid patients at homes and in hospitals will begin in a couple of days.
Members also suggested stringent measures to check violation of restrictions on number of people allowed to attend Bhogs etc, especially in villages. A suggestion was made to involve religious organisations to check the spread of the pandemic. Some MLAs asked for CCTVs to be installed in isolation wards to allow the patients to communicate with their families and friends and permission to relatives of Covid patients to visit isolation wards in PPE kits purchased at own cost, etc.Members also suggested stringent measures to check violation of restrictions on number of people allowed to attend Bhogs etc, especially in villages. A suggestion was made to involve religious organisations to disseminate the message of Covid precautions and prevention.Overcharging by private hospitals was another concern raised by MLAs, some of whom said many of these hospitals were also refusing to attend to Covid patients and needed to be controlled. They also sought increase in Level 3 beds amid the spike in cases, as well as strict implementation of mandatory masks and other Covid protocols.Health Secretary Hussan Lal apprised the meeting of the latest data on Covid in Punjab, pointing out that 90% of the deaths had been reported among Level 3 patients, 7.6% among Level 2 and the remaining of patients in home isolation.The legislators appreciated the lockdown relaxations recently announced by the Chief Minister, and also the decision on electricity bills to be raised on actuals instead of last year’s average.Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan said the state was passing through a critical time, necessitating a joint fight by all stakeholders. She urged MLAs to bring any problems to the notice of the concerned officials.The issue of cases of dengue being reported from some areas was also raised and the Chief Minister directed the Health Department to deploy special teams to launch precautionary measures across the state to prevent the spread of dengue.The Chief Minister assured the MLAs that the procurement of paddy would be done as smoothly as it had been done for wheat amid the pandemic. The process will be as smooth as the previous 7 seasons of Kharif, he added. In response to a concern about migrant labourers who many want to return after the season, he also assured that those who come to Punjab for paddy harvesting will not get stranded here.MLAs who joined today’s meeting were Barindermeet Singh Pahra (Gurdaspur), Balwinder Singh Laddi (Sri Hargobindpur), Dharamvir Agnihotri (Tarn Taran), Sukhpal Singh Bhullar (Khem Karan), Harminder Singh Gill (Patti), Ramanjit Singh Sikki (Khadoor Sahib), Santok Singh Bhalaipur (Baba Bakala), Navtej Singh Cheema (Sultanpur Lodhi), Balwinder Singh Dhaliwal (Phagwara), Indu Bala (Mukerian), Arun Dogra (Dasuya), Sangat Singh Gilzian (Urmur), Pawan Adia (Sham Churasi), Raj Kumar Chabbewal (Chabbewal) and Darshan Lal Mangepur (Balachaur).