Amid a decline in the daily count of new cases over the past four days, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Saturday announced replacement of the strict curfew with a lockdown till May 31 with limited public transport resumption.
Maximum possible relaxations will be in the non-containment zones from May 18, he said.
The containment zones would be strictly sealed to enable resumption of shops and small businesses in the non-containment areas, he announced, adding that details of all relaxations would be announced by Monday, taking into account the new guidelines of the Centre for lockdown 4.0.
He, however, made it clear that educational institutes would continue to remain closed in the interest of the safety and security of the children.
The Chief Minister appealed to the people to be cautious and continue to support his government as the state moves into a relaxed lockdown in place of the stringent curfew restrictions of the past 55 days.
At the same time, he again urged the Opposition not to indulge in petty politics over the grave issue of Covid, and to cooperate with the state government in this hour of crisis, as they had promised earlier.
The Chief Minister said in its suggestions to the Union Home Minister, as sought by the Prime Minister, the state had recommended that the nationwide lockdown, in a relaxed form, should also be extended to May 31.
Favouring a simple containment and non-containment zone categorisation instead of the green, orange and red zone classification of the Central government, the Chief Minister said the state had suggested the same to the Centre.
He pointed out that at present, the district as a whole is a single zone or at the most, there are two units i.e. municipal corporation area and non-municipal corporation area.
As per the current system, Covid cases in one part of the district can result in classification of the entire district as red zone, thus putting severe restrictions on industry, shops, etc, he said, underlining the need to scrap this system and go for a containment-focused strategy.
In a live Facebook interaction, the Chief Minister said the daily number of new cases in the state had come down during the last four days, after the recent upsurge due to the arrival of pilgrims from Nanded and students from Kota.
He thanked the people for their cooperation, enabling the state to control the Covid cases, whose doubling rate was now 44 days, as against of several other states, such as Maharashtra’s 11 days.
However, the numbers could go up as more migrant labourers and NRIs enter Punjab, he warned, adding that 60,000 Punjabis from other states and 20,000 from abroad had registered to return as of now.
The Chief Minister also made it clear that his government would continue to facilitate, and pay for, migrants who wanted to leave Punjab to go back to their homes.
In the interim, no effort would be spared to ensure that no person goes hungry, he declared, agreeing that the over 1 lakh food packets distributed so far were not sufficient and more needed to be done.
Amarinder Singh said the state government, in its recommendations to the Centre, has pitched for resumption of air, railways and inter-state bus services with reduced capacity, as well as starting of intra-district and inter-district buses, taxis, cabs, rickshaws, auto-rickshaws with adequate Covid preparedness in terms of reduced capacity.