The Punjab government on Friday night said COVID19 has not been declared an “epidemic” in the state.
It said the health department had merely issued a precautionary advisory under The Epidemic Diseases Act, 1897, which provides for special measures to prevent outbreak or spread of any dangerous epidemic disease.
The clarification came after an earlier statement quoted Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu as saying that the Punjab government has notified COVID19 as an “epidemic disease”.
An official spokesperson said the previous statement issued by the health department inadvertently described COVID19 as an epidemic disease. The spokesman asserted that there was absolutely no ‘epidemic’ in the state.
The spokesman clarified the health department issued the advisory under the said Act only as a “temporary regulation” to combat the threat of the virus. He said there was no cause for panic at present and the situation was totally under control.
As of now, samples of two of the three persons who came from Italy to Hoshiarpur had been admitted in GMCH Amritsar after they tested positive in the preliminary report of AIIMS-Delhi, he said.
However, the final reports were awaited from NIV-Pune, the spokesperson said.
He made it clear that while the advisory, listing the preventive and precautionary measures, was issued in line with the decisions taken by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh to ensure that the disease does not spread in the state, the government had not taken any decision to declare the disease an epidemic.
According to the spokesman, under The Epidemic Diseases Act, the government has taken a series of preventive initiatives, including screening of suspected cases, recording of travel history in case of travel to country/area where COVID-19 has been reported, and 14-day home quarantine of person with such history found asymptomatic.
If the person with such a travel history, in the past 14 days, is, however, found to be symptomatic as per case definition of COVID-19, he/she must be isolated in a hospital as per protocol and will be tested for COVID-19, according to the advisory.
Health Minister Sidhu said 71,900 people have been screened for COVID19 across the state so far, including 48,867 people at Amritsar airport, 5,116 at Mohali international airport, 5,401 at Wagah-Attari Border and 12,516 at Dera Baba Nanak checkpost.
As authorities urge people take precautions to avoid contracting the virus, the Punjab Tourism and Cultural Affairs Department said it has postponed the International Punjabi Film Festival, which was slated for this month, due to the threat.
Sidhu said no private laboratory has been authorised to take or test samples for COVID-19 in Punjab.
Punjab Governor VP Singh Badnore held a high-level meeting to review preparedness of the state machinery to respond to coronavirus outbreak in the state.
Badnore appealed to residents to avoid public gatherings in view of the Holi festival. He ordered all government/private organisations to suspend bio-metric attendance system and adopt manual marking of attendance till further orders.
Police department was also directed to stop the usage of breath analyser being used for checking alcohol level as a containment measure in controlling the spread of disease till further orders.
Meanwhile, the opposition Shiromani Akali Dal said it has cancelled four rallies slated in March, keeping in mind the safety of people.