By Express News Service
CHANDIGARH: With the UK Covid-19 variant running rampant in the state and accounting for 85% of the new cases, Punjab has announced a ban on political gatherings and rallies in the state till April 30. If any political party or leader is found to be violating the order, they will be booked under the Disaster Management Act (DMA) and Epidemics Act.
The state government has also announced the imposition of a night curfew from 9 pm to 5 am across Punjab. Earlier, it had been imposed in only 12 districts.
The order is expected to lead to another face-off between the ruling Congress and opposition SAD and AAP. Both the SAD and AAP have been holding gatherings across the state in the run-up to assembly polls next year.
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh said he had no option but to go in for stricter measures to control the ongoing surge, even though the number of new cases had stabilized to an extent in the last few days due to curbs imposed earlier.
He said he had been forced to order the ban on political gatherings as his pleas to all political parties to refrain from organising such events had been ignored, despite the fact that the Congress party had unilaterally announced its decision of not holding any rallies or public meetings last month.
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Expressing surprise at the behaviour of certain political leaders, including Delhi Chief Minister and national convenor of AAP Arvind Kejriwal and Sukhbir Singh Badal President of Shiromani Akali Dal, who had been attending political rallies without following safety protocols, he said such irresponsible conduct doesn’t behove them.
“How do you expect people to be serious about the spread of the disease if senior political leaders behave like this,” he asked, adding that his government will need to be tough to tackle such violations and political leaders will also need to be booked.
He ordered the police and the district administrations to register cases against the political leaders, organizers and participants of political gatherings under the DMA and Epidemics Act, besides booking the owners of the tent houses, who provide the infrastructure for such gatherings. He said even the venue owners, who would provide space for such events, will not be spared and they too will be booked and their venues sealed for three months.
CM Amarinder in his weekly review of the Covid situation expressed concern at the high positivity and mortality rates in the state. He said it was a matter of concern that over 85 per cent of cases in Punjab are being caused by the UK variant, which is more contagious and virulent.
Only a maximum of 50 people can now attend funeral and cremations and weddings held indoors while 100 people are allowed if these events are held outdoors. Wearing of masks has been made mandatory for all government employees while at offices.
These restrictions, coupled with the ones imposed earlier, which include closure of schools and educational institutions, shall remain effective till April 30.
There was some respite for shop owners in malls, as the government allowed entry of 10 people into any shop at any given time, as against the earlier order of not allowing more than 100 people in a mall at one time. This would imply that 200 people will be allowed in a mall with 20 shops at any given time.
The Punjab CM further said that no social, cultural or sports gatherings and related functions will be allowed till April 30. In-person public dealings shall be restricted in all Government offices and online and virtual modes for grievance redressal shall be encouraged, he said while adding that all government employees will need to compulsorily wear a mask while attending office. Amarinder said citizens should be encouraged to visit public offices only for essential services and the concerned departments should issue instructions announcing the limiting of daily appointments. He said restrictions of running cinema houses at 50 per cent of their capacity shall continue till April 30.
He also directed Punjab DGP, Dinkar Gupta, to ensure strict implementation of the night curfew.