Punjab gears up for influx of stranded people, NRIs

As Punjab prepares to handle a large influx of NRIs from other nations and stranded people from across the country, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday issued a series of directives to curb the spread of Covid-19 in the state. These included strict directives to the health department to ensure mandatory screening of all returnees, with institutional quarantine for those coming back from high-risk regions of India, and hotel/ home quarantine for the NRIs. To deal with the additional pressure, the state government has also decided to involve universities and state-run labs, with the CM sanctioning an immediate amount of Rs 12 crore for equipment and operational expense for six such institutions. The Central government testing facilities that are unable to enhance their capacities due to non-availability of kits from ICMR, will receive help from the Punjab government.

Such centres have been asked to purchase kits from the open market, for which the state government will bear the expenses. Punjab is currently testing 2,800 people a day, a significant increase from 1,500 a day last week. The CM also directed officials to prepare a list of private hotels that can be utilised for paid quarantine, while asking the health department to make an inventory of functional/ non-functional private hospitals. These decisions were announced during a video-conference held by the CM with health and medical experts. During the meeting, he also pointed out that as of now, 21,000 Punjabis settled abroad want to return home. He also directed the expert committee to formulate guidelines and protocols and not take any chances. Making it clear that he did not believe in the reliability of the certificates that the respective nations were required to give to the returnees, the CM said the NRIs should be given the option for quarantine, on payment basis, in hotels and at home, under supervision, pending testing, which should be done within 4-5 days of their arrival.

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