Two days after AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal announced that his party workers “will provide oximeters to every village, street and neighbourhood of Punjab”, CM Amarinder Singh’s government on Friday decided to provide oximeters to all Covid-19 patients in home quarantine.
Punjab government has already floated tenders for procurement of 50,000 pulse oximeters as the state is witnessing a spike in Covid-19 cases. The government plans to start distributing the oximeters as soon as the first lot is received.
Delhi’s AAP government has been distributing pulse oximeters to Covid-19 positive residents there. After Kejriwal announced that his party will do so in Punjab too, CM Amarinder Singh and other Congress leaders had hit back at him for trying to use the pandemic for political gains.
A Punjab government official, however, said that the state government’s oximeter decision is not an afterthought.
He said: “It is not an after-thought following Kejriwal’s video message asking his volunteers to check blood oxygen of Covid-19 patients. We had already floated tenders on Tuesday while Kejriwal’s video came out on Wednesday.”
Kejriwal had Wednesday said that AAP workers will go to every village, street and neighbourhood of Punjab to check people’s oxygen levels as state battles against a surge in Covid-19. In a video message, he said: “Corona is spreading in every direction. In Punjab too, corona has spread a lot. Everyone has to come together now and take some steps. AAP has decided to join hands with people and try to save as many lives as possible. In Delhi, we have seen that oximeters have proved to be very helpful. So AAP will provide oximeters to every village, street and neighbourhood of Punjab.”
The Punjab government functionary stated that every oximeter costs at least Rs 500 each and to procure 50,000 pulse oximeters, government would have to spend Rs 2.5 crore on the first lot.
“It is more expensive in retail, sometimes even three times than Rs 500. But we hope to get it for Rs 500 each. We will be closing the tenders on September 8. We want to make the procurement fast as Covid-19 is expected to peak in state in mid-September where there would be about 1 lakh cases.”
The government believes that by distributing oximeters free of cost, it would be able to ensure that people monitor their blood-oxygen levels at home only and they can rush to the hospitals in case it goes down. The blood-oxygen levels plummet in a few Covid-19 cases silently and it becomes a major cause of morbidity. Punjab has already allowed Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms to self-isolate at home. Amarinder had a few days ago said that the projections had indicated 3,000 deaths due to Covid-19 by September 15 and they were working towards reducing the morbidity.
The government has also launched an aggressive campaign to exhort people to test at the onset of symptoms. It is making use of bulk SMSes and bulk pre-recorded calls asking people to report to a hospital as they witness even the mildest symptoms.