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Safety first for COVID-19 frontline warriors: Punjab government to give PPE kits to police personnel

CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday said police personnel in the state will be given PPE kits keeping in view their role in the fight against coronavirus.

His statement has come a day after an assistant commissioner of police in Ludhiana tested positive for the infection.

However, the chief minister said their priority is to protect health workers for whom the state already has around 16,000 personal protection equipment (PPE) kits.

After all doctors, paramedics and sanitation workers in hospitals are equipped with such kits, the government is procuring these for police, the CM said in a video conference with reporters.

Asked about the attack on a police team by a group of Nihangs in Patiala on Sunday, leading to the chopping off an ASI’s hand, the CM said his first reaction was of “extreme anger”.

The CM said he told the state DGP to take strict action against the perpetrators.

“What do the Nihangs think, that they can get away with this,” he asked.

Praising Assistant Sub-Inspector Harjeet Singh, who is undergoing treatment at the Chandigarh’s PGIMER, the CM said he was an “extremely brave man”.

He said while his government knew the problems faced by people, there was no option but to continue with the stringent restrictions for the present, given the “massive threat of the pandemic spiralling out of control”.

For the moment, the curfew/lockdown has to be strictly enforced, he said, adding that police have been told not to allow any violation, including with regard to the wearing of masks.

Amarinder Singh said the state government has already sought a special package, including Rs 729 for hospital upgrade, Rs 550 crore for setting up an institute for advanced virology and the release GST arrears amounting to Rs 4,400 crore, from the Centre.

While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given positive indications, the package is yet to come, he said.

Replying to a question, the CM said his government has no plan to reduce salaries of government employees to meet the expenditure in the wake of the coronavirus crisis.

The chief minister on Tuesday had urged Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reconsider directives to industry and commercial establishments to pay full wages to their workers during the lockdown, saying it may push them to bankruptcy.

On the issue of any relaxation during the lockdown, the CM said the committee formed by his government was already examining ways of doing so without compromising on the health of people.

People’s lives and health were the key priority at the moment, he said, adding that relaxations will have to be in phases and the way forward was being worked out by the task force set up for this purpose.

He said there was no proposal to open liquor vends in the state at present as the primary focus was on ensuring the supply of essential goods.

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