Punjab government has decided to increase testing facilities in the state by nearly four times, from existing 1,050 to 3,800 tests daily.
It has ruled out opening shops in the state after Centre relaxed lockdown curbs and left it for the Cabinet to take a call on the issue in a meeting on April 30 even as a 20-member expert group constituted by the State government and headed by former Chief Secretary K R Lakahanpal is learnt to have opined that after having imposed a strict lockdown in the state, Punjab should follow centre in relaxing curbs.
Punjab is already preparing for any major spike in the number of coroanvirus positive cases, which may see a rise while exiting from lockdown.
Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu told The Indian Express on Sunday, “We have set up isolation centres with a total of 5,000 beds in government hospitals. We can ramp up setting up more isolation centres with a total bed capacity of 25,000 to 30,000. In fact, we are also in touch with big educational universities and institutions and in case of need, the capacity could be increased to up to one lakh beds by using their facilities as isolation centres.”
Punjab has been lagging behind in tests per million population as compared to several other states and the national average. Punjab Special Chief Secretary K B S Sidhu attributed the relatively lesser testing to “going for specific testing as per protocol which focused on persons with foreign travel history, those having symptoms, primary contacts of persons who tested positive and frontline health workers”. Sidhu added, “We did not go for indiscriminate testing.”
Punjab Medical Education and Research Minister OP Soni said the Government Medical Colleges in the state had conducted more than 10,000 COVID-19 tests, of which 217 were positive. He pointed out that the college laboratories started with initial capacity of 40 tests each per day at Amritsar and Patiala Government Medical Colleges after getting approval of ICMR on March 15.