Chandigarh, Aug 21 (IANS) A day after announcing a fresh set of lockdown restrictions in the state till August 31, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered imposition of Section 144 to prohibit gatherings of more than five persons, for other than marriage and ‘bhog' ceremonies, warning of strict action against the organisers of such gatherings.
Making it clear that he would not hesitate to take any harsh steps necessary to save lives, he warned of even more stringent measures after August 31 if needed to check the Covid spread and save the lives of the people of Punjab.
He appealed to all political parties to avoid any gatherings, including protests.
In case of any violation of Section 144, the organisers who are putting people at risk by organising such gatherings or allowing people to gather without masks will be arrested, he said, warning of total strictness in this matter.
The Chief Minister also requested all religious and community leaders to ask their followers to take all precautions as advised and not to violate Section 144, in the interest of the state which was witnessing an increase in Covid cases.
He also directed the police to strictly enforce the prescribed number and social distancing at marriages and bhog ceremonies.
Covid cases in the state had gone up to 37,824, on account of increased testing, said the CM, disclosing that 20,290 samples were tested on Thursday, of which 1,741 were found positive — a positivity rate of 8.5 per cent.
The average daily increase for the last seven days was 1,400 plus, he pointed out, adding that 37 people had died on Thursday, taking the total number of Covid deaths to 957 and the mortality rate to 2.5 per cent.
There were, as of Thursday, 349 patients on oxygen and 39 on ventilator, which was a cause for concern, said the Chief Minister, adding that the maximum number of cases last week were reported from Ludhiana, Patiala, Jalandhar, Mohali and Bathinda.
The statistics paint a gloomy picture, he said in Friday's edition of Facebook Live #AskCaptain, warning that if people do not take the necessary precautions, things will only get worse.
Unfortunately, people were now taking things lightly, forcing the government to take harsh measures, said the Chief Minister, adding that there were 3,000-6,000 cases daily of people being challaned for not wearing masks.
On Thursday, the Chief Minister had ordered re-imposition of several lockdown restrictions in the state, including weekend lockdown, daily night curfew from 7 p.m. to 5 a.m. in all cities and towns, shutdown of 50 per cent non-essential shops in the five big towns of Punjab — Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala, Amritsar and Mohali — all government and private offices to work at 50 per cent strength, and private cars to ply with not more than three persons with buses and public transport to ply at 50 per cent capacity.
“Why don't we understand that the precautions are necessary for saving your lives and those of other Punjabis?,” said Amarinder, urging people to pay heed to his repeated appeals.
Noting that the state was headed towards a peak, he said by September 3, the cases in Punjab are projected to go up to 64,000, and cross one lakh by September 15.
Deaths will also increase, with experts estimating over 1,500 deaths by September 3, he warned, hoping that the people will listen to him and take due precautions.
“We don't have to let Punjab go the America way,” he added.