The Punjab government on Tuesday further eased Covid restrictions, allowing reopening of bars, pubs and taverns with 50 per cent capacity from July 1. Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh, however, said owners will have to ensure that their staff members take at least one dose of Covid vaccine and the social distancing guidelines are followed, according to a government statement. The next phase of restrictions will remain in force till July 10.
Skill development centres and universities have also been allowed to open, subjected to the staff and students having taken at least one dose of the vaccine. Earlier, IELTS (international English language testing system) coaching institutes were allowed to be opened with a similar condition.
Expressing satisfaction over the decline in positivity rate, the CM noted at a Covid review meeting that in some districts, it was still over 1 per cent.
The Delta Plus variant of the infection is a matter of concern, making it essential to continue with the curbs, he stressed.
Two cases (Ludhiana and Patiala) had shown Delta Plus variant while in May and June, this variant was most prevalent, he pointed out.
Of the 198 contacts of the Ludhiana patient traced and tested, one was found positive and the sample has been sent for genome sequencing, while in the Patiala case, for which the genome sequencing report was received on June 26, the process of tracing/testing is going on, he said.
Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan said genome sequencing of 489 samples, including 276 sent in April, 100 in May and 113 in June, is still pending with the central lab.
She clarified that the Delta Plus variant was found in samples sent by the state government in May, whose results were given by central labs recently.
The CM ordered fast tracking of the establishment of a genome sequencing lab at the Government Medical College and Hospital in Patiala, in association with the international non-profit organisation PATH.
Health Minister Balbir Sidhu suggested a close watch on visitors from countries reporting Delta Plus variant cases.
Reviewing the preparations for what experts have predicted as an imminent third way, the CM directed the departments to scale up testing.
He also directed the organisation of outreach camps, especially in villages, for testing.
Health Secretary Hussan Lal said they had formulated a comprehensive surveillance strategy to keep a check on the potential third wave drivers.
Medical Education and Research Minister OP Soni said 80 per cent of the preparations needed to tackle a possible third wave are already complete at government medical colleges of the state.
On the black fungus or mucormycosis, the CM said Punjab has had much fewer cases than most other states, including Haryana and Delhi. He said 51 people had died due to black fungus in the state.