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Punjab can test only 100 samples of COVID-19 suspects a day: Health dept sources

Sources in the state health department said, “The two hospitals have a capacity of this much only. But we have not been receiving more than 8-10 samples from across the state. Some days the number has not been more than five.”

Written by Kanchan Vasdev | Chandigarh |
March 17, 2020 11:30:14 pm
coronavirus cases, COVID-19 samples test, Punjab Health department, punjab news, indian epxress news Punjab has only one confirmed case of coronavirus yet at GMC hospital. (Representational Image)

Health department officials have said that Punjab can test only 100 COVID-19 samples a day because the two hospitals in the state that are equipped for such testing – Rajindra Medical College in Patiala and Government Medical college in Amritsar – can only process 50 samples each on a given day.

Moreover, these two colleges are equipped for preliminary testing only. For confirmation, the samples are sent to NIV, Pune.

“The two hospitals have a capacity of this much only. But we have not been receiving more than 8-10 samples from across the state. Some days the number has not been more than five,” a functionary handling the testing of coronavirus suspects said.

The functionary explained that Punjab was divided into three regions for testing. “Samples of suspects from Malwa region are sent to the Patiala hospital, from Majha they sent to the Amritsar hospital while samples from Mohali, Ropar and Fatehgarh Sahib go to PGI in Chandigarh.”

Punjab Health Minister Balbir Sidhu said there was no local spread of the infection in Punjab, “We are being very stringent at airports. Our doctors are working 24×7 to ensure we do not miss any NRI or foreigner who lands at our airports. We have sent health department teams to villages across the state. They are checking the villages.”

The minister said that after the WHO guidelines on testing as many samples as possible, the state was waiting for the Centre to allow some private labs to start testing. “That will make testing easier. Government of India is planning to allow testing by private labs,” he said.

“Not many flights are landing here (from Europe) now, but our doctors are tired. Hence, we are making them work in eight hour shifts. We have got doctors from Taran Taran and Gurdaspur also to be posted at Amritsar airport.”

Sidhu added that the state had set up a 500-bed quarantine facility in Amritsar as well as at Gian Sagar Hospital in Mohali. These two facilities will take care of foreign travelers during their 14-day quarantine.

Punjab has only one confirmed case of coronavirus yet at GMC hospital. He is stable, said Sidhu.

Box: Punjab to book those not following closure orders

The Punjab government will take police action against those not following the closure orders amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu told The Indian Express that he had learnt that several establishments were not closing down despite the government’s orders to do so, “If they do not close their establishments to ward off coronavirus, we will start registering FIRs against such violators under the Epidemic Diseases Act. We will order registration of case against such violators from tomorrow (Wednesday),” he said.

Sources said the closure orders, to contain the spread of the virus, were being flouted by gyms, coaching centres and other establishments across the state.

“I will go around Mohali myself tomorrow and see if the orders are being flouted. We should be all responsible and help prevent the spread of the disease,” said Sidhu.

He said that to check the spread of local infections, the government had ordered the closure of all shopping complexes, malls, museums, local weekly kisan mandis besides issuing advisory to religious institutions and dera heads to postpone their religious congregations till March 31.

The government also decided to restrict gatherings at the marriage functions. Deputy commissioners of all districts have been directed to ensure that no marriage party had a gathering of more than 50 persons.

The DCs will also ensure the restaurants, hotels, dhabas and food courts in their areas implement hand washing protocol and process cleaning of frequently touched surfaces besides ensuring minimum distance of a metre between the person and the tables.

Grocery shops in malls will remain open. Hand cart vegetable sellers will be allowed to sell for the convenience of people.

The school education department has also been instructed to postpone examinations. If there is a dire need to conduct an examination, they should ensure a distance of a metre between the examinees.

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