Already leading the state in the lists of active and total Covid-19 cases, Amritsar is now grappling with the fear of community transmission. The source of infection in 55 per cent active cases in district remains so far untraceable.
However, Punjab government has junked fears of community spread in the district, while asserting that the recent rise in overall cases is due to the state ramping up testing from less than 2000 to over 5000 tests per day.
Amritsar reported 13 fresh cases on Wednesday. With this, the district now has recorded 515 total cases, with 130 among them still active.
Out of the 130 active cases, 54 had come in contact with positive cases and four had a travel history. However, the investigation to ascertain the source of infection was on for remaining 72, including 52 who tested positive after they were first symptomatic of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) and Influenza Like Illness (ILI).
Majority of them were reported from flu centres in community health centres across the state where they either arrived on their own or were brought by the health authorities after they complained of symptoms on helplines.
Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, Punjab Health Department’s nodal officer for Covid-19, said that investigation was on to trace the origin of infection in 52 SARI and ILI cases and 20 other new cases in Amritsar district.
Dr Bhaskar, however, said that it was too early to say that community transmission had started in the district. “When health officials take the samples, they do not go into much finer details about the contacts or travel history. But, once a person is tested positive, an extensive exercise is carried out to ascertain the source of infection.”
He told that investigation was on for persons testing positive without any immediately known travel history or contacts with the positive persons.
“A detailed exercise is carried out, factoring in 16 days history of the patient,” said Dr Bhaskar.
Amritsar Additional Deputy Commissioner (General) Himanshu Aggarwal said that there have been cases where “out of nowhere some patients come”. Aggarwal added, “There are some cases who did not have travel history or who were initially not known to have come in contact with a known positive case.”
Aggarwal also pointed out that authorities were checking the travel and contacts history of such cases. “But, I think this is not limited to Amritsar alone. I am sure, in other districts also such cases are coming up,” he said.
Incidentally, on Wednesday, in Pathankot which reported maximum cases for the day, out of 19 cases, there were 13 such cases — including 11 who self-reported, a pregnant woman and a police official — where the source of infection was not known.
In recent days, especially after testing was intensified in the state, among the new cases from several other districts there were many having source of infection under investigation. Punjab reported 86 new cases on Wednesday out of the 6,962 test reports received for the day. The source of infection was not known for 27.
Punjab Health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said, “Community transmission has not started in Punjab. Largely, there have been cases where an infected person had infected family members or the persons coming from outside the state. Either the infection got spread from people coming from outside the state or for instance someone visited any hospital or any other place from where he contracted the infection.”
Punjab Cabinet Minister O P Soni, who represents Amritsar Central Assembly constituency as legislator, too said that there was “no community transmission” in Amritsar.
“There is nothing to worry about. Amritsar does have narrow lanes in the localities, but community transmission has not started. Earlier, there were positive cases of people who came from abroad, then there were pilgrims who returned from Nanded Sahib. In majority of the cases, it has been transmission from the known positive cases.”
Punjab Health and Family Welfare Principal Secretary Anurag Agarwal, when asked whether community spread had started in Amritsar, said, “There is nothing like that. We are very far. If there are some sporadic cases where source of infection is not known, you cannot jump to conclusion that there is community spread. All these are sporadic cases. If there is a cluster of 50 to 60 new such cases, then we can say it is community spread. Even Delhi has denied any community spread.”
Amritsar Civil Surgeon Dr Jugal Kishore said that there were two containment zones in Amritsar from where 19 and 15 cases were reported, respectively.
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