Even as the district appears to have hit its Covid-19 peak and new cases have been on the decline for the last few days, Patiala has been witnessing an increased occupational incidence of the contagion.
Starting from banks to motor garages, combine making units to car showrooms, petrol pumps to sweet meat factories and factories to schools, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh’s home district has witnessed the virus spreading among the employees of these units, according to Patiala Civil Surgeon Dr Harish Malhotra.
“Although the cases are on the decline in the district as in other parts of the state, we have witnessed the occupational incidence of the Covid in the district. A large number of cases have been witnessed in banks, factories, petrol pumps, motor garages, car and vehicle showrooms. Since the employees at these outlets work closely, they show a high incidence of the contagion. We, however, do not know who got the virus and spread it.”
He added that for employees testing positive in sweet meat shops, it could not be said if an employee got the virus from his home and spread it among colleagues or if they picked it from the customers. “We are only tracing contacts and testing. We are getting a high positive rate among employees in these establishments. But it is difficult to find the index case.”
For instance, in a bank recently, an employee was coming from Malerkotla branch where there were positive cases. “We tested this employee. Then he was pooling his car with a colleague. The colleague also tested positive. Similarly, in a petrol pump, we tested 25 employees out of whom 12 tested positive. That is a high incidence.”
Only recently, 58 employees of a steel factory at Bhadson turned positive on Saturday and last month 143 employees of a thread mill at Samana had tested positive.
Dr Malhotra blamed it on the employers, who he said, are not following guidelines and taking it lightly. “As per the guidelines, we advise them to get the employees work in shifts. This would ensure social distancing automatically. We advise them to get the labour coming from other states tested but they are not following this too. Then we tell them to get at least 20 per cent of their employees tested every week. That too is not being followed.”
On high positivity rate of the employees in Patiala, Dr Malhotra said he would just say that it was the result of better surveillance and monitoring. “We have a contact tracing of 11.8 persons per positive case.” Punjab averages contact tracing of 7.6 persons.
The administration was home isolating those with mild symptoms or without symptoms. A few of these were shifted to hospitals, said Dr Malhotra.
“Still, we have a silver lining now. The positivity rate is on the decline. It was 17 per cent earlier and now it has come down to 4 per cent,” he said.
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