In the week ending June 14, Punjab recorded deaths of 15 Covid-19 patients. This was nearly double that of eight deaths that the state had witnessed the previous week (June 1-7). The death rate in the two consecutive weeks remained unusually high for state that reported its first novel coronovirus positive case on March 9, and the first death from the disease 10 days later on March 19.
The state has recorded deaths of 67 Covid-19 patients till June 14 evening, or 2.1 per cent of the total 3,140 positive cases. The fatality rate is comparatively lower than the national average of 2.9 per cent (as of Monday).
While jury is still out on the reasons behind the high fatality rate in the state, a death audit ordered by the Punjab government had blamed comorbidity, patients reporting late to government health facilities and more seniors turning up for treatment among the factors.
Of the 15 who died in the week ending June 14, one was a 8-month old baby, seven in the age group of 61-70 years; four in the age group of 71-80 years, and who was the age group of 81-plus category. Two other patients who died were in the age group 41-50, as per the information gleaned from the Punjab Health Department.
The state had reported its first Covid-19 fatality, an NRI who returned from Italy, on March 19 (or week from March 16-22). The next week ( March 23-29) too state recorded one death while in the third week (March 30-April 5) it saw a spike and registered five fatalities, followed by six deaths in fourth week (April 6- 12). The next week (April 13-19), the fatalities came down to three, followed by two in the following week (April 20-26). The numbers spiked to six in the seventh week followed by seven in the eighth week (May 4-10) and rising to six in the week after. The next two weeks saw three and four deaths, respectively, before spiking to eight in the twelfth week (June 1-7), which also happened to be first week of Unlock 1.0. The numbers nearly doubled in the second week of unlock 1.0 to 15.
Dr Rajesh Bhasker, nodal officer for Covid-19 cases in Punjab, said, “Of 67 deaths in Punjab, 56 were because of comorbidities and most of them were older patients above 60 years of age. We can say that these patients died because of comorbidities with Covid and not only because of the virus. Covid may or may not have worsened their condition. Most of them were patients of diabetes, hypertension and some had suffered cardiac arrest as well.”
Dr Raj Bahadur, Vice-Chancellor Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) and professional advisor for Punjab’s Covid-19 management programme, concurred. “Comorbidities account for 83.5 per cent of the total casualties. Hence, people with diabetes, kidney disorder, cardiac patients, hypertension, obesity need to take care of their health. Many patients died with multiple comorbidities. But we need to understand that people with any health ailment are high risk patients and hence Covid cannot be the sole reason for their death,” Dr Raj Bahadur told the Indian Express.
Meanwhile, the rising number of cases continue to pose a challenge for Punjab’s overburdened health care infrastructure.
Sample this: The Government Medical College in Amritsar, is handling patients from eight districts. As of Saturday morning, none of the 21 Covid patients who were put on ventilator at GMC’s Guru Nanak Dev Hospital could survive.
Sujata Sharma, principal, GMC Amritsar, while confirming that “no patient survived after being shifted on ventilator”, added that “most of the patients, when they arrived at the hospital, were already in very critical condition”
Medical superintendent of the college, Dr Raman said that a total of 967 patients had been admitted at GMC till Saturday morning. “A total of 60 patients have been put on oxygen support till date,” he had said.
The number of patients needing oxygen and ventilator support is also increasing along with the rising number of cases. Fourteen patients were on oxygen support as of June 14, while one was on ventilator. On May 31, the last day of the lockdown 4.0, only two patients were on oxygen support and one on ventilator. Patients needing oxygen or ventilator support never exceeded three and two, respectively on any given day in May.
\Authorities, attribute, the rise in the numbers to the ramped up testing capacity. On March 16, the day Punjab started conducting its own Covid test, the state had tested nine people against the capacity of 80 tests. By April 30, Punjab’s testing capacity had reached 1,050 but 1,207 tests were done taking help of the central government and even private labs. Of the 1,207 tests, 139 had returned positive. The testing capacity was further ramped up to 9,810 tests but only 3,722 tests was done on May 31, out of which 30 returned positive. June 10 onwards, the testing capacity has remained at more than 8000 a day with maximum 9010 tests done on June 13 when 77 people were tested positive. Punjab plans to set up four more labs as well by next month to ramp up the capacity to 12,300 tests.
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