Chandigarh, April 29 : Twenty-three more people, who returned to Punjab after a 1,750-km odyssey from the Sikh shrine in Nanded, Maharashtra, on Wednesday tested coronavirus positive, taking their total to 34.
As per official figures, nearly 3,500 pilgrims are expected to arrive from Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in Nanded where they were stranded due to the lockdown.
They are reaching Punjab in batches in the government-arranged buses.
A majority of them would return in the next two days, a Punjab government official told IANS.
The Health Department has decided to quarantine all returnees from outside the state for 21 days.
"The pilgrims returning from Sri Hazur Sahib is a big challenge.
The Maharashtra government didn't take steps to prevent the Covid-19 spread by testing those who were embarking upon the journey to Punjab," Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said.
"We are taking all the necessary steps to contain coronavirus by examining and testing of all the returnees to Punjab.
It's our duty to bring them back," he said.
Meanwhile, the Bathinda district, which had no case so far, on Wednesday reported its first coronavirus cases with two pilgrims testing positive.
After non-resident Indians (NRIs), foreign travellers and Tablighi Jamaat attendees, it's now the pilgrims returning from the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib that is posing a serious challenge to the state administration, said an official.
The state government has ordered all the Takht Sri Hazur Sahib returnees -- who returned to the state on their own -- to report their whereabouts to the nearest police station or face criminal prosecution.
The concealing of such information would lead to criminal case, an official said.