Despite declining cases, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Monday ordered expanding the contact tracing of positive patients to 15 persons and made it mandatory for hospitals and radiology labs conducting CT scans to report such patients to the state administration in case of suspicion of coronavirus, as part of a slew of measures to strengthen the Covid management systems amid apprehension of second wave.
Further, to streamline and prioritise the process of Covid vaccination, the Chief Minister ordered a state-level 3-tier vaccine supervision mechanism, comprising a steering committee as well as state and district task force, to be put in place.
‘DEPEND ON RT-PCR’
Amarinder also directed the Health Department to make RT-PCR the rule, with Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to be treated as exception, while ordering another Sero Survey to assess the ground situation. In other steps, he directed 24×7 testing facility to be made available at District Hospitals, all fever cases/other symptomatic coming to Health Facilities to be tested with RT-PCR and all patients attending the flu corners to be tested with RT-PCR. He stressed the need to make arrangements for walk-in testing at multiple points, and asked the Health Department to consider branching out testing by scaling up local initiatives like Mohali’s out-door testing.
COVID MORTALITY AUDIT
The Chief Minister asked the Health Department to get information from private and public hospitals regarding Covid mortality and complete the audit by November 9 so that remedial action can be taken by mid-November.
Emphasising the importance of ensuring preparedness for a second wave, he also directed the Department to meet manpower shortage, especially in L-II facilities, by filling all gaps in mission mode. Those who have been selected must be immediately given appointment letters and asked to join, he said, in response to a concern expressed on this count by Health Minister Balbir Sidhu.
Chairing a virtual meeting of medical and health experts and officials, Chief Minister warned against any complacency amid projections of a more severe second wave, in keeping with the global trend. He urged organisers of social and religious congregations, that have been permitted, to also encourage the participants to get themselves tested. He asked officials to encourage citizens organisations and NGOs, and also to reach out to people through the Lok Sanjhedari programme, to discourage the use of firecrackers this Diwali season.
Noting that people were now relying on CT scans in a big way instead of getting themselves tested for Covid, the Chief Minister directed the Health Department to make sharing of information regarding those coming for CT scans with the health authorities. The state government’s health expert committee head, Dr KK Talwar, earlier said unless checked, the practice of patients confining themselves to CT scans could be dangerous for the state.
To ensure that distribution of the vaccine, once available, is prioritised among the vulnerable groups, including health workers and people with co-morbidities, Amarinder ordered the constitution of a State Steering Committee, to be headed by the Chief Secretary, with monthly meetings to supervise the progress. A State Task Force, to be headed by Principal Secretary Health, will hold meetings every fortnight, while at the district level, the Districts Magistrates will head the District Task Force, which will meet on a weekly basis.
Stressing the need for extreme caution and extensive testing so that the situation, which has improved in recent weeks, does not aggravate, the Chief Minister said the positivity rate had come down to around 2 per cent but the state could not afford to be lax under any circumstances. He stressed the need to increase surveillance and strictly follow Covid appropriate behaviours till a safe and effective vaccine is available.
TESTING MONTH FOR STAFF
The Chief Minister asked the concerned departments to dedicate the month of November to carry out testing of all staff, including health, police, revenue and other civilian staff. He said his government had already sanctioned approximately Rs 900 crore for Covid response and added that funds will not be allowed to become a constraint for ensuring full preparation and best response. He directed the Health Department to increase testing to 30,000 a day, with at least 100 tests per lakh population.
The focus areas for monthly testing in the state would be healthcare workers, government staff, industry workers, migrant labour (mandis, residential areas of labour, brick-kilns etc.), office and commercial establishments, markets, schools/colleges, m multiplexes, containment/micro containment zones, persons with co morbidities, dhabas/ restaurants. At least 50 per cent samples should be from these categories, said the Chief Minister, directing the Health and Medical Education departments to come up with weekly sampling/surveillance plans indicating focus area.
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