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Punjab shuts schools, colleges till March 31 amid surge in Covid cases 

The Congress government in Punjab has ordered massive restrictions in the state following a spurt in coronavirus cases. The government has ordered all educational institutions, other than medical and nursing colleges, to remain closed till March 31. Cinema halls have been asked to operate with 50 per cent capacity and not more than 100 persons in a mall at any time. The new restrictions will come into effect from Saturday (March 20). 

Chief Minister Amarinder Singh has appealed to the people to keep social activity in their houses to the bare minimum for the next 2 weeks to break the transmission chain. 

“Not more than 10 visitors should be entertained in homes,” he said after chairing a meeting of the Covid Task Force with top officials. 

In the 11 worst-hit districts, a complete ban has been ordered on all social gatherings and related functions, except for funerals and weddings, which will be allowed with only 20 persons in attendance. This will be enforced from Sunday. These districts are Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Mohali, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala, SBS Nagar, Fatehgarh Sahib, Ropar and Moga. “In these districts, which will remain under night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am,” the order said.

Also, the government has ordered cinemas, multiplexes, restaurants, malls etc to remain closed on Sundays, though home deliveries will be allowed subject to night curfew. Industries and essential services shall be allowed to function, but barring these, all restrictions shall be strictly enforced.

Also, starting next week, one hour of silence will be observed across the state every Saturday, from 11 am to 12 noon, in memory of those who lost their lives to Covid, with no vehicle to ply at this time.

The Chief Minister asked the district administration to involve the general public, along with market committees, Sarpanches etc, in this initiative, which will, however, remain voluntary for them.

The Chief Minister ordered restrictions on in-person public dealings in government offices, with citizens to be encouraged to visit offices only for essential services. SIngh directed officials to encourage online and virtual modes for grievance redressal, and asked concerned departments to issue necessary instructions for limiting appointments per day for registries etc. 

Though other districts will not be placed under such stringent restrictions for now, the Chief Minister ordered immediate reinforcement and strict monitoring of the strategy of micro-containment and containment zones where there are evident clusters. He made it clear that if necessary, strict curbs will also be imposed in other districts if the situation worsens and Covid protocols and norms are not adhered to be by the people.

The situation will be reviewed after two weeks, the Chief Minister said. 

Singh also directed health officials to ramp up testing per day to 35,000. He said that a special focus should be given on super spreaders and government employees, teachers in educational institutions, etc. must be tested routinely. 

“RAT testing should be stepped up along with RTPCR testing,” he ordered, while directing contact tracing and contact testing to be taken up to 30 per positive person.

The Chief Minister also directed the Department of Medical Education & Research to immediately complete recruitment of specialists/super-specialists.

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