Chandigarh, April 19: As COVID-19 cases continue to rise rapidly across the country including in Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered stricter restrictions including extension of night curfew timings (8 pm to 5 am), closure of all bars, cinema halls, gyms, spas, coaching centres, sports complexes, with restaurants and hotels to be open only for takeaway and home delivery from Monday to Saturday.

The stricter restrictions will come into force from Tuesday. Rates for RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) by private labs have been reduced to Rs 450 and Rs 300 respectively (with additional charges for home collection of the samples), in a bid to promote increased testing. Night Curfew in Punjab Extended: Coaching Institutes, Gyms, Bars & Theatres To Remain Shut Till April 30; Only 20 People Allowed for Weddings & Funerals.

An official release said that gatherings of more than 20 persons, including for weddings/cremations, have also been banned across the state, and prior approval of the district administration will be needed for all gatherings of more than 10 persons, except for cremation.

The new restrictions, which also include closure of all malls, shops and markets on Sunday, coupled with the ones imposed earlier, will remain in effect till April 30, announced the Chief Minister, directing the Police department to strictly enforce the restrictions, taking support of civil society organisations where needed. All weekly markets have also ordered to be shut down.

Chairing a high-level virtual meeting to review the COVID situation in the state, the chief minister also ordered that all people flying into Punjab should have a negative RT-PCR not more than 72 hours old, else they would have to undergo RAT testing at the airport. He also ordered that people who have attended large gatherings anywhere ( religious/ political/social) to be mandatorily home quarantined for 5 days and tested as per protocol.

The Chief Minister asked the transport department to restrict the number of people in buses, taxis and autos to 50 per cent of the capacity. In a bid to check inbound travellers, the Chief Minister also directed that Rapid Antigen Testing (RAT) testing booths should be set up at bus stands and railway stations and all passengers checked. All eligible persons should also be vaccinated

The Chief Minister ordered postponement of the recruitment exams for Patwaris and directed for Medical Education department to hold online examination for first, second and third year MBBS / BDS /BAMS and first year nursing students.

The Chief Minister reiterated his appeal to all religious, social and political leaders to desist from organising large gatherings, encourage vaccination and motivate people for COVID-appropriate behaviour, especially wearing of masks and avoiding gatherings.

He said that military hospitals in the cantonments in Punjab had assured the state government of all possible help to tackle the surge, while private hospitals had already been directed to reserve 75 per cent beds for COVID-19 patients.

While reviewing the situation in private and government hospitals, the Chief Minister directed 75 per cent reservation of L-3 facilities for COVID-19 in all private hospitals providing critical Covid care. He said that no elective surgeries should be conducted in any government or private hospitals till May 15 and all OPD patients must be tested, besides encouraging them to get vaccinated.

The 104 Helpline shall function 24X7 to provide information on bed availability in government and private hospitals. Oxygen requirement and availability will be strictly monitored and ensured for both government and private hospitals by a committee.

Private hospitals will be supported in supply of essential medicines. The containment / micro-containment strategy has been left to the Deputy Commissioners to decide, depending on the situation in their respective zones or areas.

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