Chandigarh, Aug 17, 2020-
Expressing concern over the surge in Covid-19 cases and the increasing number of deaths per million in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday said he was not averse to imposing harsher measures to check the pandemic.
At a virtual meeting of the Cabinet, which reviewed the Covid situation, the Chief Minister in response to a suggestion from the Expert Health Advisory Committee Chairman K.K. Talwar, said if needed the state would consider going in for strong measures to combat the coronavirus.
Though he did not rule out a lockdown, especially in areas with a spike in cases, Amarinder Singh made it clear that economic activity will not be allowed to suffer.
Earlier, Montek Singh Ahluwalia, who is heading the expert group for revival of the state’s economy, also said any measures to check the Covid spread should not impact economic activity.
Montek also reiterated, while briefing the Cabinet on the group’s initial recommendations, that there was no suggestion made on withdrawal of free power to farmers, as was being projected by a section of the media.
He clarified this after the Chief Minister’s remarks that a lot of misinformation was being spread on this count.
Montek said the group was in favour of diversification to reduce dependence on paddy, and wanted Punjab to spend 20 per cent more per year, for the next five years, on the development of public health infrastructure.
Warning that the state must also be ready for a second spike, the economist said if lockdowns had to be introduced in certain areas then strict protocols should be put in place to ensure that there is no impact on industrial and income generating avenues.
The Chief Minister said the Montek group’s recommendations would be circulated to all ministers and a detailed discussion will be held thereafter on the issue.
In his presentation on the Covid crisis, Talwar said the four districts of Ludhiana, Mohali, Jalandhar and Patiala were witnessing the maximum surge and needed stricter preventive measures to control the situation.
The situation in the state, he said, was grim, with 31,000 plus cases and more than 800 fatalities.
The deaths per million had also gone up to 27.2, and as many as 265 patients were on oxygen and 20 on ventilators at present, he said, underlining the need for early testing and treatment for saving lives.
The state had reached 20,000 tests per day, including rapid antigen testing, he said. (Agency)