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Amid rising COVID-19 cases, the Punjab government on Thursday announced a weekend lockdown in all 167 cities and towns in the state and increased the night curfew period by two hours.

Police mark shops with numbers in Ludhiana as the odd-even formula for opening of shops on weekdays kicks-in. "The odd and even-numbered shops will open on alternative days. A fine of 5,000 will be imposed on the violators," says sub-inspector Pawan Kumar.

The weekend lockdown which was in force earlier only in three cities - Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala - has now been extended to all the cities and towns in the state.

The night curfew will be from 7 pm till 5 am instead of the earlier 9 pm to 5 am duration in all cities and towns.

As part of emergency measures to deal with COVID-19, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also ordered a complete ban on all gatherings, except weddings and funerals, across the state till August 31.

The government and private offices will work at 50 per cent capacity till the end of this month, as per the directives issued by the CM during a video conference with senior officials to review the COVID situation in the state.

Singh called for “war-like preparedness" to deal with the massive COVID spike in the state.

The latest measures came as the state has been witnessing a sharp surge in the number of coronavirus cases for the past several days.

The CM also directed the officials concerned to restrict public visitors in government officials and encourage the use of online grievance redressal system, which has been strengthened by the state government to minimise in-person contact with hassle-free online engagement, the release said.

In the five worst-affected districts of Amritsar, Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Patiala and Mohali, restrictions on vehicular capacity have been imposed again with buses and other public transport to operate with 50 per cent occupancy and private four-wheelers not allowed to carry more than three passengers per vehicle.

Singh has also directed the deputy commissioners of these five districts to allow only 50 per cent of the non-essential shops to open on a daily basis to check crowding.

The five districts are currently accounting for 80 per cent of the active caseload in the state.

Singh also directed Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta to strictly enforce compliance of rules with regard to the number of persons allowed to attend weddings and funerals, and also to ensure total ban on political gatherings till August 31, when the situation will be reviewed.

He also asked the DGP to crack the whip on all political protests and gatherings, and asked his own party state leadership to enforce the ban strictly.

“Enough is enough," Singh said while adding that the government needs to be tough without affecting the state's economic activity.

The CM asked the health department to promote public participation by involving all other departments, NGOs and local politicians to educate the people.

He said the state was in an “health emergency" situation, necessitating suh harsh measures, which might have to be further intensified in the coming days to curb the spread of the pandemic.

Though the cases were currently concentrated mainly in urban areas, rural areas were also witnessing an increase, he said, adding that if needed, travel restrictions may have to be imposed.

*With inputs from agencies

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