Punjab on Wednesday reported as many as 37 positive cases of novel coronavirus, including 25 pilgrims who returned from Nanded, four students who returned from Kota, in the last 24 hours, taking the total tally to 379.
Two Nanded returnees of Bathinda tested positive on Wednesday evening. With this, Bathinda, which had not reported any case, became the 21st district of Punjab to come in the COVID grip. Earlier, zero-case district Tarn Taran too had reported five Nanded cases on Monday and became the 20th COVID-affected district of the state. Now Fazilka is the only zero- case district in the state.
Seven pilgrims who returned from Nanded tested positive in Ludhiana, five in Mohali, three each in Faridkot and Hoshiarpur, two each in Bathinda, Patiala and Kapurthala and one in Sangrur on Wednesday.The total number of pilgrims who have tested postive so far in the state rose to 36. Four students of Kota took the tally further up to 38. Seven pilgrims from Tarn Taran, three from Kapurthala and one from Hoshiarpur, who was a tempo traveller driver and drove 15 pilgrims back to Hoshiarpur from Nanded, had tested positive for novel coronavirus earlier.
In Ludhiana, out of the total 11 positive patients, seven were Nanded returnees and four were Kota returnees. Kota students came on Monday and had been sent home after medical examination. They were called back on Tuesday and were tested while Nanded pilgrims who came on Sunday too were called back from their houses and tested on Tuesday. However, all the 11 patients are asymptomatic. They have been admitted to the Civil Hospital, Ludhiana, said Civil Surgeon Dr Rajesh Bagga.
In addition to this, three female patients of Faridkot’s Sandhwan village tested positive. They also came from Nanded late in the night on April 26 on their own by hiring a private tempo.
However, after sending nearly 1,255 passengers of Nanded, Kota and Gwalior to their houses following thermal scanning on April 26 and 27, the Punjab government finally woke up to quarantine each and every passenger who came from outside the state. Except for Bathinda and Faridkot districts where pilgrims were already quarantined in government centres, the remaining districts had taken samples and sent the pilgrims home on Sunday as well as on Monday.
Apart from examining the new passengers, now district administrations are also contacting the 1,255 passengers who were sent to their houses after medical check-up on April 26 and 27. Sources said many passengers have switched off their mobile phones. “On Sunday, 21 passengers of Nanded were of Bathinda. We had sent them straight to quarantine centres. We are following protocol from day one. Hence, the two patients who have been tested positive were already isolated,” said Bathinda Deputy Commissioner B Srinivasan. The protocol to send all outside state passengers to government quarantine centres is being followed from April 28 onwards.
Political parties had been demanding that pilgrims from Nanded should be brought back and Shiromani Akali Dal had raised the issue with Home Minister Amit Shah as well. SAD president Sukhbir Singh Badal and Union Minister Harsimrat Badal had thanked the Centre, Hazur Sahib Gurdwara Management and the SAD Mumbai unit.
Reacting to the 34 Nanded pilgrims testing positive, SAD spokesperson Daljeet Singh Cheema said, “A resident of the state will have to be brought back to the state. Already they were stuck for the past 40 days at Nanded. Now testing is the only solution, as everyone is being quarantined. However, question needs to be asked as to why people were sent home on Sunday and Monday. In addition to this, many pilgrims are coming in private vehicles as well. So if everyone on border is quarantined, the problem will be solved.”
Leader of Opposition Harpal Singh Cheema of the AAP said, “About 8,000 people — pilgrims and workers from Rajasthan — are the official numbers who are being brought back by the government. Otherwise, many had come on their own as well, who went unchecked. These are the combine drivers, mechanics and foremen who had gone to UP and Madhya Pradesh. They have entered Punjab through many routes. I am not sure whether they were examined.”
Jeevan Gupta, state’s general secretary of BJP, said, “Questions have been raised over casual approach of Punjab government in examining people coming out of Punjab. People who entered Tarn Taran and later tested positive were not tested on border. In Ludhiana as well, passengers were first sent to their houses after medical examination. Hundreds of them were sent to houses after thermal scanning. If anyone is coming from Maharashtra, which is the most affected state, one needs to take extra precautions.”
Both the BJP and AAP leaders said the pilgrims should have been tested at Nanded itself before bringing them home.
A total of 148 buses were used to bring people from Nanded (80 buses), Jaisalmer( 61 buses) and Kota (seven buses). So far, 132 buses have come back. These consist of 61 buses from Jaisalmer, seven from Kota and 64 from Nanded. Only 14 buses of Nanded are left and they are expected by Thursday.