Chandigarh, September 10: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Friday ordered extension of the existing Covid restrictions till September 30, in view of the upcoming festival season, with a limit of 300 on all gatherings, including political, and strict enforcement of wearing of masks as well as social distancing.

He also made it mandatory for organizers, including political parties, to ensure that participants, management, and staff at food stalls, etc in festival-related events are fully vaccinated, or at least have had a single dose.

Calling for a continued vigil in the light of the festivals, the Chief Minister urged all political parties to lead by example, while directing the DGP to ensure compliance with restrictions by all. DGP Dinkar Gupta said with the caseload decreasing, people had started being lax on the front of the mask, which the Health Department should strictly enforce with the help of the police. Captain Amarinder also directed Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to make joint administration-police flying squads in each district to ensure compliance at restaurants, marriage palaces, etc.

Chairing a virtual high-level Covid review meeting, the Chief Minister also directed the Department of Social Security to prepare to open Anganwari Centres within this month, making Punjab the first state to do so. The opening of these centers will be subject to vaccination of staff and other guidelines to be worked out jointly with the Health Department.

The Chief Minister also ordered an increase in testing from the current 45,000/day to at least 50,000/day as part of the preparations for the possible third wave. Along with sentinel testing, outreach camps and testing should be taken up, especially where the public gathering is expected to take place on account of the festival season, he directed, adding that all infrastructure augmentation works should also be expedited and completed.

Pointing out that the GIS-based surveillance and prevention tool with an auto-trigger mechanism for localized restrictions was now live in all Districts, Captain Amarinder further directed the Health Department to take micro-containment measures using these tools for areas/localities where cases are more than five.

DR KK Talwar, head of the state’s Covid expert committee, said while the situation currently was under control, there was a need to prepare for the third wave, and also for the upcoming festival season. He urged the Chief Minister to appeal to all religious organizations to make regular announcements from temples and Gurdwaras for wearing masks. Market committees should be asked to do the same in view of the crowds expected in markets, he suggested, adding that shopkeepers and their staff should also be tested more aggressively on account of the festival season.

Noting that the cases of Mucormycosis had come down substantially, with only 1 case reported last week, the Chief Minister expressed satisfaction that Punjab was also doing much better than several other states, including Haryana, in terms of the number of persons cured. Overall positivity in the state has also remained low – at 0.1% from September 1 to 9, Health Secretary Alok Shekhar informed the meeting.

In terms of variants of concern, the month-wise whole-genome sequencing sent to NCDC showed that the Delta variant remains predominant, the Chief Minister said, adding that the Whole Genome Sequencing Lab at GMCH Patiala in association with PATH had started operations, and 67 total samples had been tested already and have not shown the presence of any new variant.