Chandigarh: In another trouble for Punjab, at least 12 people, who recently returned after a 1,750-km odyssey from the popular Sikh shrine in Nanded in Maharashtra, have tested coronavirus positive in past two days, officials said on Tuesday.
Out of them seven belonged to Tarn Taran district and three of a family from Kapurthala district.
A majority of them who were diagnosed positive reached their hometowns on their own without undergoing mandatory medical screening at the inter-state borders.
As per official figures, nearly 3,500 pilgrims are still stranded at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in Nanded due to the nationwide lockdown in wake of COVID-19 for whom the Punjab government has arranged the buses.
All will return to Punjab in batches in the next two-three days, a state government official told IANS.
The Health Department has decided to quarantine all those who will return from Hazur Sahib.
“The certain influx in new cases has posed a big challenge to the state again where the situation has been largely under control after a lot steps to contain the virus,” state Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu told the media here.
He said all those who tested positive and belonged to one village in Tarn Taran had not informed the local authorities about their arrival.
“Acting on the complaint of locals, at least 17 people were screened and seven of them diagnosed positive,” he said.
“Similar is the situation from Kapurthala from where three members of a family, including a child tested positive,” Sidhu added.
Officials told IANS after the spike in virus cases with the return of non-resident Indians (NRIs) and foreign travellers and the arrival of Tablighi Jamaat members, who were blamed for the virus spread, it is now the pilgrims returning from Takht Sri Hazur Sahib to the state is posing a serious challenge.
Most of them do not have any record of their medical screening by the government in Maharashtra.
The state government has now issued an ultimatum to all those who returned to the state on their own after remaining stranded at Takht Sri Hazur Sahib to report their whereabouts to the nearest police station or face criminal prosecution.
The concealing of such information would lead to a criminal case, an official said.
For the pilgrims who are returning to the state in government arranged buses, doctors will screen and test them and advise 14-day strict home quarantine.
As many as 467 pilgrims reached Bathinda on Monday evening in government buses from Nanded.
Apart from them, 2,800 Punjabi labourers returned home on Tuesday in 61 government buses from Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, where they were stranded in five relief camps.
“Each and every one of them is going to be tested and shall be lodged in a government quarantine facility for the next 14 days,” Special Chief Secretary K.B.S. Sidhu, who is in-charge to monitor state-wide coronavirus cases, informed in a tweet.