Is Punjab the Next Hotbed of Covid-19 in India?


Is Punjab the Next Hotbed of Covid-19 in India?

Illustration: Shruti Yatam

As India enters day two of the 21-day lockdown, all attention has been diverted to how well individual states are coping with the quarantine period. Over the last week, one trend has clearly emerged — some are definitely dealing better than others.

Alarm bells were first sounded a couple of days ago in the state of Punjab after the government put out a warning that nearly 90,000 citizens had returned in the last month from countries like Italy, Spain and the US, which have been badly affected by the pandemic.

Taking into account the fact that the state is already home to the highest NRI population in the country, the state has asked the Centre to sanction Rs 150 crore to deal with the eventual outbreak, according to

A large number of these 90,000 NRIs, the state said in its letter to the Union Health Ministry, have symptoms of Covid-19 and are further spreading the disease. “The number of Covid-19 patients are going to increase alarmingly,” it states.

The state has, so far, recorded 31 positive cases of Covid-19. But according to an alarming report in the Times of India, this could rise exponentially very quickly. The first casualty in the state, the report says, came into direct contact with 94 people himself, who in turn came in contact with 500 others.

“The 70-year-old, who passed away on March 18, had returned from a two-week tour in Germany and Italy, but didn’t pay heed to the government advisory and quarantine himself,” the report says. “According to the Punjab health minister, of the 29 cases recorded (at the time)… as many as 21 are either his family members or people who have come in contact with him.”

Taking into account fears that more residents of the state will defy curfew, the police have arrested over 100 people in the state. However with a lack of sensitivity training, it has also led to images of officers across the state brutally taking these offenders to task, irrespective of their reasons for being outdoors at the time.

Meanwhile, in Chandigarh, a Union Territory that too has been placed under curfew VIPs are expressing their displeasure with the lack of entertainment on offer. Apparently the administration has received a number of applications from residents of the city asking them to allow passes to “vendors to make fresh juices” and for barbers and parlour ladies to make home calls.

An official was reported telling The Indian Express that people are not understanding the gravity of the situation. “There are many who are seeking a pass for morning and evening walks at Sukhna lake,” the official said.

Earlier today, a video circulated online, showing an officer urging men who are bored at home during the lockdown to help the women with household chores. In the clip, the cop is seen making this amusing appeal through a loudspeaker.

So even as cases in other states continue to spike, the next few weeks could be crucial for the Granary of India. Let’s hope the residents and police both decide to behave responsibly during the lockdown, before the situation deteriorates.