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Sunday, April 11, 2021

Stricter curbs in Punjab if Covid situation does not improve in a week: Amarinder Singh

The meeting, it is learnt, discussed that while lockdown would be a bad idea, the government should ensure strict enforcement of masking up and social distancing rules

By: Express News Service | Chandigarh |
April 1, 2021 9:32:10 am
Health workers take swab samples for Covid testing at the government dispensary in Patiala, where eight new cases were recorded, on Wednesday. Harmeet Sodhi

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday warned of stricter restrictions if the Covid-19 situation in the state does not improve over the next one week. The state is reeling under a massive surge of cases and deaths despite the administration imposing night curfew.

Amarinder, who was reviewing the Covid situation with top health, administrative and police officers, said he would review the situation on April 8 and would take a decision on further curbs if the Covid spread continues unchecked. “I will watch things for a week, and then if there is no improvement, we may have to go for stricter curbs,” he said.

The meeting, it is learnt, discussed that while lockdown would be a bad idea, the government should ensure strict enforcement of masking up and social distancing rules. Enhancing of police presence in different parts of the state to create a feeling that dangers from Covid were real was also discussed.

Underlining the need for aggressive vaccination, particularly in areas with high case and cities with more than 300 cases, Amarinder directed officials to reach out to eligible people at the mohalla level in the worst affected districts to motivate people to get vaccinated. He also directed stricter enforcement of Covid restrictions and protocols in the worst affected cities of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Mohali and Amritsar.

Dr K K Talwar, head of the state’s Covid expert committee, said more enforcement of restrictions were needed in urban areas, which were reporting higher cases. DGP Dinkar Gupta said since March 19, 1.30 lakh people had been taken for RT-PCR testing on being found moving around without masks. Of these, 391 were found positive, he disclosed.

Policemen get the COVID-19 check of mask violator at the Clock Tower Chowk in Ludhiana.Express Photo by Gurmeet Singh

The districts of SAS Nagar, Kapurthala, Patiala, SBS Nagar, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Ludhiana are reporting the maximum positivity, while the overall positivity in the state stands at 7.6 per cent as of March 24, 2021.

Taking note of the inconvenience caused to commuters, the Chief Minister also ordered doing away with the one-hour silence on Saturdays to commemorate the Covid warriors.

The CM expressed concern over the high death rate, which Dr Talwar said was due to patients not coming to hospitals in time and the rate of co-morbidities also being high in the state. Dr Talwar informed the meeting that 80-85 per cent patients dying have chronic diseases. The CM directed the administration to develop a robust mechanism to get people with co-morbidities to the hospital at the earliest, besides stricter monitoring of home isolated people. He appealed to religious and political leaders to promote Covid-appropriate behaviour.

Hits back at Centre, says it delayed extending vaccination to 45+ group

A day after the Centre took on the Punjab government for not being able to manage Covid surge, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said not only was the state consistently doing more tests per million than the national average, but also the situation would have been better had the Government of India not delayed opening up of vaccination for 45+ age group.

Had the Central government acceded to the state’s request for allowing vaccination of all 50+ category population earlier, instead of delaying the decision to include 45+ age population by almost two months, the situation would have been better, he said in a statement.

He was reacting to the Centre’s allegation that the state government was not doing enough CoViD testing and isolating affected people.

The CM said that his government had put severe restrictions on social gatherings and closed all educational institutions, with night curfews imposed from 9 pm to 5 am in severely affected 11 districts.

He observed that the state government had been repeatedly requesting the Centre in writing, as well as in meetings attended by the Chief Secretary, that the current strategy of immunisation needs review. Vaccination in a campaign that covers all age groups in selected areas will lead to better outcomes than the periodic cycles of vaccination targeting a small section of the population in each cycle, he stressed, underlining the need for such approach in any area where weekly testing shows a doubling of positivity rate.

He reiterated his demand for permission for occupation-based immunisation for school and college students and teachers, judges, bus drivers and conductors, panches/ sarpanches, mayors/ municipal committee, presidents/ councillors, MLAs and MPs everywhere.

Amarinder also took note of the delay in receiving reports of genome sequencing. Of the 874 samples sent, only 588 reports had been received so far, of which 411 samples were found positive for B.1.1.7 (UK variant) and two samples positive for N440K. The implication of presence of UK variant mutant needs to be looked into and appropriate advice is required to be shared with the state, the CM urged the Centre.

Citing the factual position on the testing front, Capt noted that during the first peak, which happened in September 2020, the positivity rate was around 10 and the state was testing 30,000 CoViD samples per day. Now, when the positivity is over 7%, the state is testing around 40,000 CoViD samples per day. The state is consistently testing around 90% RT-PCR and about 10% RAT, and its per million testing is 1,96,667 while the national average is 1,82,296, he pointed out.

The state had very limited capacity of testing RT-PCR when this pandemic started. It was about 40 samples per day and within a very short span of time, the state ramped up its own RT-PCR testing capacity to more than 25,000 tests per day. The state is consistently utilising its optimal RT-PCR capacity. The GoI institutions like IISER, IMTech, PGIMER are supporting the state to the extent of only about 100 samples per day, said the CM, adding that the state can increase RAT testing to any level if there is a need to do so.

Further, he pointed out that during the first peak in September 2020, Punjab had increased contact tracing to 10 contacts per positive case. Now, during the second peak, “we are tracing more than 15 contacts per positive case,” he added.

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