Delivery of free cooked food to poor coronavirus patients and a subsistence allowance of Rs 3,000 to all registered construction workers amid a surge in COVID-19 cases,Punjab government announced on Thursday. These decisions were taken during the state cabinet meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.
Beginning Friday, the poor and underprivileged COVID patients living in the state can call up helpline numbers 181 and 112 for delivery of free cooked meals at their doorsteps through the Punjab Police department, a state government release said.
Announcing the initiative, Singh said “we will not let anyone sleep hungry in Punjab”.
The department is tying up with such kitchens and delivery agents for this purpose, state police chief Dinkar Gupta said.
In another decision, the chief minister announced subsistence allowance or cash assistance of Rs 3,000 to all construction workers registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers (BOCW) Welfare Board.
Singh, who is also the Chairman of the Board, said the subsistence allowance of Rs 3,000 would be paid in two instalments of Rs 1,500 each, the first one to be released immediately and another by June 15.
The state government had similarly extended a helping hand to distressed construction workers last year too, amid the first wave of the pandemic.
It had then provided financial assistance to the tune of Rs 174.31 crore at the rate of Rs 6,000 each to 2.91 lakh construction workers registered with the Board.
The Board has nearly three lakh registered construction workers across the state.
The livelihood of these construction workers has been adversely impacted in the wake of various restrictive measures and advisories issued from time-to-time to combat the current situation arising out of the recent spike in COVID-19 cases.
The progress of the ongoing construction projects at several places has either stopped or temporarily slowed down, thus severely hitting the income and livelihood of such workers.
Singh also announced the launch of 18-44 age group vaccination for families of healthcare workers in both government and private sectors, as well as those suffering from comorbidities, from Friday.
Directing judicious use of the limited available stocks of vaccine, the chief minister also directed the health department to initiate the process of vaccinating co-morbid prisoners in this age group.
The state’s positivity rate for the week ended on May 12 and stood at 14.2 per cent, with CFR of 2.1 per cent.
Reviewing the COVID situation and the vaccination status, Singh asked the health department to kickstart the vaccination programme for these priority groups from identified school and other buildings, to prevent further spread of the pandemic due to crowding at government hospitals.
Earlier, the state government had already launched a vaccination drive for construction workers aged 18 and above.
Briefing the cabinet, Dr Gagandeep Kang, a special invitee to the expert group, said with preliminary data showing vaccines working better against COVID-19 than expected, including against the mutant B.1.617 variety, a targeted response to the vaccination programme was needed.
She suggested more extensive use of Covishield, given its affordability and availability, and the fact that it offers high efficacy even with a single dose, while the second dose can be extended up to 12 weeks.
Kang suggested that the government of India should be requested to include obesity in the list of comorbidities for vaccination priority.
The state cabinet also gave post-facto approval for the procurement of hospital material and consumables worth Rs 152.56 for effective management of COVID-19.
It also approved recruitment of 250 MBBS medical officers in the health department, against existing vacant regular posts through Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot.
These posts of 250 medical officers fell vacant from October 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 due to promotion/retirement/resignation.