Punjab has announced a night curfew – from 6 pm to 5 am during week days – and a weekend lockdown – from 6 pm on Friday to 5 am on Monday – to combat the rapidly increasing number of coronavirus cases in the state.
Chief Minister Amarinder Singh tweeted Monday night to ask for the people’s co-operation and urge everyone to “stay at home and step out only if absolutely necessary”.
Like several others the state has reported a frightening surge in new Covid cases over the past few weeks; daily new cases have shot up from fewer than 600 in late-February to nearly 7,000.
This morning Punjab reported 6,980 new cases – the most in a 24-hour period since the pandemic began. The state also reported 76 Covid-linked deaths.
The active caseload is now nearly 50,000 – more than double the previous high of around 22,000.
Overall Punjab has logged more than 3.39 lakh Covid cases in the past two years.
Earlier today a worried Amarinder Singh told people he expected the situation to get worse, especially in south Punjab, where Ludhiana district alone reported over 1,300 cases on Sunday.
The Chief Minister was quoted by news agency PTI as saying that stringent measures were required to tackle the increase in cases. However, he also said he was reluctant to order a complete lockdown because of the accompanying economic problems and impact on migrant workers.
The increase in cases has also left hospitals struggling to find beds, medicines and oxygen for critically ill patients, whether they are Covid positive or suffering from some other illness.
The oxygen crisis, in particular, has made the headlines, as it has in national capital Delhi, where multiple hospitals have approached the High Court for help. In Punjab, six people – of whom five were Covid-positive, died at a Amritsar hospital on Saturday, allegedly from oxygen shortage.
Mr Singh has said his government is working to secure medical oxygen supplies; according to a PTI report the state requires 205 metric tonnes per day and this is expected to increase to 300 MT on account of the rising number of coronavirus cases.
On Sunday Punjab shut down its iron and steel industries in order to divert oxygen for medical use.
The Chief Minister has also approached Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the centre for help.