In less than a week, the recovery rate of Covid-19 patients in Punjab witnessed a sharp improvement – from 15.7 per cent on May 15 to 89.4 percent on May 20. With this, Punjab, which figures in the top 10 states with most number of cases, improved its standing as the one with the worst recovery rate to the one with the best recovery rate.
Also, on Wednesday, Punjab reported only three new cases, and factoring in the number of low cases being reported for over a week, a pattern of flattening of the curve has been emerging.
“In the fight against #Covid19, Punjab’s recovery rate now stands at 89 per cent with only 211 active cases. Wish them all a speedy recovery. Our doubling rate of cases has improved to 100 days. But Please follow full precautions to ensure that our hard work isn’t frittered away,” Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh said in tweet Thursday.
As of May 15, Punjab had a total of 1,932 cases, out of which 305 had recovered and 1,595 were active cases. By May 20, there was a complete turnaround with 1,794 patients recovering and merely 173 active cases under treatment out of total 2,005 cases.
How did this turnaround happen?
Thanks to the new discharge policy of Centre where it directed to discharge asymptomatic positive cases and self isolate them at home. According to Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, Punjab’s nodal officer for Covid-19, all positive patients who had completed isolation in earmarked facilities for seven days and were asymptomatic for next three days were sent home for self isolation.
Why such a huge improvement in recovery rate in Punjab?
The credit again goes to pilgrims who had returned from Nanded. It were the pilgrims from Nanded who led to a sharp spike in number of novel coronavirus cases. And eventually, it was due to them only that the recovery rate improved as they accounted for majority of the patients who were discharged under the new policy. The number of cases started to show a sharp increase from the last week of April when the pilgrims from Nanded started arriving in Punjab. Out of 4,218 pilgrims who were tested, 1,252 returned positive, accounting for around 62 per cent of the cases reported in Punjab so far. Following the new discharge policy, they were discharged en masse after they were found to be meeting the criteria to be sent home. Around 100 labourers who came from other states also fulfilled the requirements and were sent for home isolation, said Dr Bhaskar, adding that remaining approved for self isolation at home were mixed cases.
How is Punjab monitoring those sent home for self isolation?
Punjab government is getting signed an undertaking from each such patient that in case he/she violates norms of self isolation, a case would be registered against him/her under Epidemic Diseases Act. Every such patient needs to download COVA app, which monitors their location. They all have to ensure that Wi-Fi is on at their place round the clock so that any deviation in their movement could be noticed. As per Dr Bhaskar, sometimes there are “little fluctuations in the location”. “The moment any fluctuation is observed, the rapid response teams dealing with Covid-19 reach the house of any such person,” he added. Punjab has currently 369 rapid response teams, comprising multi purpose health workers (MPHWs), auxiliary nurse midwives (ANMs), accredited social health activists (ASHAs), pharmacy officers, staff nurses and even medical officers.
For how long the monitoring continues?
According to Dr Bhaskar, if anyone sent home for self isolation does not show any symptoms for a week and remains asymptomatic, he or she is then “free to move around”.
Are patients hailing from containment zones and reporting asymptomatic being sent for home isolation in Punjab?
Such patients are being kept at earmarked isolation facilities for another seven days, in addition to 10 days. After that they are asked to opt between going home or at some relative’s place. They could be sent home only after screening of their family members for yet another time, said Dr Bhaskar .
What was the arrangement earlier to discharge a patient in Punjab?
The patients needed to spend 14-days in isolation facility and if found asymptomatic, he or she was tested for coronavirus. If the report returned negative, another test was conducted 24 hours later. Only after both the tests returned negative was a patient declared fully recovered.
What is the quantum of new cases being reported in Punjab?
The pattern of new cases reported for more than a week now suggests that Punjab is on its way to flatten the curve. On Wednesday (May 20), only three new cases were reported, On May 19, it registered 22 new cases while on May 18, 17, 16, 15, 14 and 13, it was 16, 18, 14, 13, 11 and 11, respectively. Prior to that, there have been sharp spike in per day cases, especially after pilgrims from Nanded started arriving in the state. A health official said that keeping in view the relaxation in lockdown, it would be crucial how people follow the norms it order to keep new cases under check.
What is the testing capacity of Punjab?
Starting from the scratch in the beginning of March to 1,050 tests a day now at three government medical facilities, Punjab government is set to increase its capacity to test suspected novel coronavirus samples further to 5000 a day by May end.
Punjab also plans to increase it by another 1,000 by June end. The three facilities – Government Medical Colleges at Amritsar and Patiala and Faridkot based Guru Gobind Singh Medical College and Hospital currently have a daily testing capacity of 400, 400 and 250 samples, respectively.
As per Punjab Medical Education and Research Principal Secretary D K Tiwari, this is a single test capacity. When pool testing, where a number of samples are tested together in a pool, is factored in, the overall daily testing capacity in the three facilities increased to 700, 700 and 450, respectively.
Tiwari said, based on samples sent by the health department, pool testing was also being done where five samples were tested together and in case result is positive, individual sample testing is done. He said pool testing was good for areas where in majority of the individual samples being tested, the results were turning out to be negative.
To ramp up the testing capacity, Punjab has procured three automatic RNA extraction machines, each to be used in Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot.
“The machine will become operational in Faridkot on Friday and by month end, we will increase the testing capacity to 5,000 tests a day in the state,” said Tiwari.
In addition, samples from Punjab are also being tested at facilities like CSIR-IMTECH Chandigarh, PGI Chandigarh, Dayanand Medical College and Hospital, Christian Medical College and Hospital (both in Ludhiana) and Tuli laboratory in Amritsar.
According to Punjab Health minister Balbir Sidhu said four new laboratries were being set up in the state and in addition, laboratories are also being set up at four central government institutions – IISER Mohali, NIPER Mohali, NABI Mohali, and PU Chandigarh.
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