Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday again ruled out a complete lockdown, noting that the restrictions currently in place were more stringent than the lockdown conditions in many other states.
He also announced a series of relaxations and relief measures to alleviate the woes of various sections of the people amid the prolonged crisis.
The relaxations include phased opening of shops and various incentives for the housing sector, including three-month extension in permission period of construction of plots and projects for allotments, whether private or allotted, by state urban development authorities.
Amid spiralling Covid cases, the Chief Minister ordered limiting of the number of teachers in government schools to 50 per cent, with the rest taking online classes from home.
He also directed the Food Department to prepare 500,000 additional food packets for distribution among Covid patients, to ensure that every patient individually gets a packet even where there are more than one patient in a family.
The state government has also announced additional 10 kg atta for 1.41 crore Smart Ration Card beneficiaries. The food aid is in addition to the 100,000 lakh food kits, containing 10 kg atta, 2 kg chana and 2 kg sugar already sanctioned for all poor people testing positive with Covid.
It is also additional to the food aid announced by the Centre.
Virtually chairing a Cabinet meeting, the Chief Minister compared the Punjab restrictions with the curbs in place in states like Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala, among others, and pointed out that it was not necessary to impose a total lockdown.
The Chief Minister said to meet immediate and urgent needs of the people at the local level, it had been decided by the government to authorise sarpanches to spend up to Rs 5,000 per day, subject to a maximum of Rs 50,000, out of panchayat funds for providing emergency relief by way of food and medicines to the poor and needy in the villages.
All urban local bodies have also been empowered to provide emergency relief, including food and medicines to the poor and needy, from the municipal fund.