COVID INDIA MUMBAI SWAB
A health worker takes a swab sample to test for COVID-19 on a street in Mumbai, India, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. India has more than 9 million cases of coronavirus, second behind the United States. Image Credit: AP

Chandigarh: Amid the grim COVID-19 situation in Delhi-NCR and “apprehensions of the second wave” in Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday ordered a series of fresh restrictions in the state, including re-imposition of night curfew in all towns and cities from December 1.

The Punjab government has also doubled a fine for not wearing masks or following social distancing norms, according to an official release. As per the Union Health Ministry, Punjab has 6,834 active cases of COVID-19.

Night curfew will remain in force from 10pm to 5am, announced the Chief Minister, warning people against letting their guard down under any circumstances.

The curbs, which will be reviewed on December 15, also restrict opening timings of all hotels, restaurants and marriage palaces till 9.30om.

Giving details of the new restrictions after a high-level state COVID-19 review meeting, an official spokesperson of the Punjab government said fine for not following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour will be hiked from the present Rs 500 to Rs 1000.

Given the in-flow of patients from Delhi for treatment in Punjab, it has also been decided to review and optimise the beds’ availability in the state’s private hospitals. The Chief Minister has asked Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to work with the concerned departments to encourage more private hospitals to come on board and earmark beds for COVID-19 care.

To further strengthen the availability of oxygen and ICU beds, Singh has ordered the strengthening of the L-II and L-III, with constant monitoring of districts that are not equipped with L-III facilities. The management practices in GMCHs and Civil Hospitals should also be examined in light of the recommendations of the report received from the expert group, he said.

He also directed the Health and Medical Education departments to make emergency appointments of specialists, super-specialists, nurses and paramedics, to further augment the manpower which was recently strengthened with the recruitment of 249 specialist doctors and 407 medical officers. The departments have also been asked to consider preparing fourth and fifth-year MBBS students as reserve and back-up, in case needed in the future.

On the testing front, the Chief Minister stressed the need to fully utilise the 25,500 daily RT-PCR testing capacity, and directed targeted and regular testing of potential super spreaders, including government officials. The district hospitals must have 24x7 testing available, and the same must also be made available at other convenient locations where people can easily access the same, he said.

To ensure that no deaths take place in home isolation, Singh said the agency hired to look into these cases should keep close tabs on such patients. “While mortality audit was ongoing, it was a matter of satisfaction that the Department was now collecting reasons for placing patients on ventilator by private hospitals, and there was a referral group available to monitor these patients,” he added.