Concerned that the return of nearly 90,000 non-resident Indians in a month will accelerate the spread of coronavirus in Punjab, the state government has asked the Centre to sanction Rs 150 crore to prepare for the outbreak, The Times of India reported on Monday.

In his letter to Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan, Punjab Health Minister BS Sidhu said that coronavirus cases in the state could spread alarmingly. He said that many NRIs are suspected to be infected and are transmitting the disease to their families. “Punjab has the maximum number of NRIs in the country and only 90,000 of them have landed in the state this month,” Sidhu wrote in his letter, according to NDTV. “Many have symptoms of Covid-19 and are further spreading the disease... The number of COVID-19 patients are going to increase alarmingly.”

NRIs from Punjab form a huge chunk of population in Italy, United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Spain, the countries worst hit by the outbreak in the world.

On Monday, the Punjab government became the first to enforce a state-wide curfew with no relaxation after people were seen flouting lockdown orders. Chief Minister Amarinder Singh had said that the extreme step had been taken “in the interest of the state, and in the interest of all of you.” During a curfew, people can be arrested or fined if seen out on the streets.

Punjab has 21 active coronavirus cases. A 72-year-old man, who had come from Germany via Italy, had died of the disease last week.

According to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, there are 492 cases of coronavirus in India and ten people have been killed. Across the world, more than 3,81,000 people have been infected with coronavirus and over 16,000 have died.