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Experts question Punjab’s one-hour silence for Covid victims

‘Mark of respect is fine, but government should focus its efforts on health infrastructure, recruit more staff’

Written by Navjeevan Gopal | Chandigarh |
March 23, 2021 7:50:37 am
A policeman gets the Covid vaccine in Ludhiana. Gurmeet Singh

The Punjab government’s move to observe one-hour silence on all Saturdays where no vehicle shall ply in the memory and as a mark of respect to those “who had to lay down their lives due to Covid” has drawn flak with questions being raised over the handling of the pandemic in the state.

Commencing next Saturday, March 27, the one-hour silence would be observed from 11 am to noon and all the administrative and police chiefs across the state have been asked by the Additional Chief Secretary (Home) to ensure strict and meticulous compliance.

Health activist and former registrar of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences, Faridkot, Dr Pyare Lal Garg termed the government’s move “show-off”.

Hitting out at the Punjab government, Dr Garg said, “The government has not been able to provide the needed human care, medical care, as well as psychological care to Covid patients and has been unsuccessful administratively too. This (one-hour silence exercise) is all show-off.”

He added that if the government really wanted to pay respect, it should have “given assistance and rehabilitated the families of the victims”.

At nearly 3 per cent, Punjab continues to have the highest Covid cases fatality rate.

Also lashing out at the Centre while saying that Punjab followed the Centre’s guidelines, Dr Garg said the Centre government’s moves like “banging utensils” was totally baseless exercise. “Did it help check Covid? All such things are unscientific. They have not used scientific methodology to check the spread of the disease,” Dr Garg said.

Punjab Civil Medical Services (PCMS) Association president Dr Gagandeep Singh said, “Mark of respect is fine, but government should allocate more budget to improve health structure in the state. The government should focus on improving infrastructure and recruiting more staff.”

A government functionary, wishing not to be named, said “one-hour window was too little for ensuring that vehicles do not ply on the road”. The functionary added, “To break the chain, the restriction on vehicular movement should have been at least five to six hours.”

Punjab Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan, when contacted, said the exercise on Saturdays was “to honour the memory of the dead and also to ensure more lives are not lost”.

On implementation, Vini said, “Everything need not be implemented hundred per cent, but the Deputy Commissioners have been asked to get in touch with elected representatives to spread maximum awareness about the exercise. This is a very serious situation we are in. Lives have been lost. To save lives, we need to sensitise people. There will be some siren at the start and end of the one-hour silence.”

Asserting that “health infrastructure in Punjab is better than many other states”, Vini blamed the high case fatality rate on patients reporting late to health facilities for treatment.

“If people shy away from government hospital, if they don’t take it seriously, no one can save their lives,” Vini said, asserting that health facilities in the states were well-equipped to treat patients if they report there early.

“Health infrastructure in Punjab is better than many other states. But people must take their own disease seriously. We cannot force people, but encouraging them to the best of our ability. They should not shy away from testing if they come in contact with a Covid positive person or if they show any symptoms. If treated early, Covid is not fatal.”

Punjab Additional Director General of Police (Traffic) Sharad Satya Chauhan said, “I am going to write to officers in the field to spread maximum awareness among people so that they follow the guidelines.”

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