As Covid cases and deaths continue to escalate, with the UK strain emerging the most prevalent in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday ordered extension of curbs till April 10, while directing the Health Department to increase the number of vaccination sites to target the priority categories on urgent basis.
Reviewing the Covid situation with the Chief Secretary and other top officials, the Chief Minister said all restrictions that were in place till March 31 will now remain in force till April 10, after which they would be again reviewed.
The Chief Minister also ordered the launch of a vaccination drive in the prisons, in the wake of 40 women in Patiala’s Nabha Open Jail testing positive for Coronavirus.
Expressing grave concern over the situation, Captain Amarinder asked Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to issue the necessary directions for carrying out testing and vaccination in busy market areas along with other crowded places. He asked all DCs and Civil Surgeons to identify places where mobile Covid Vaccination Centres can be created, such as Police Lines, Colleges & Universities, bigger Industrial Units, Bus Stands, and Railway Stations, PRTC/ Punjab Roadways bus depots, market places, etc. to ramp up vaccination.
All eligible govt employees, and other categories which he had requested for inclusion in vaccine coverage (such as judges, teachers etc), should be facilitated in getting vaccination to the extent of being eligible on account of being over 45 years of age, said the Chief Minister. He directed pooling of resources available in districts with high number of cases for effective management of the pandemic and uptake of the vaccination.
Notably, the latest data shows the UK strain of the virus to be the most prevalent in the state. While 326 of the 401 Covid positive samples sent initially to NCDC for genome sequencing were found positive for the UK variant, subsequently of the 95 samples sent to IGIB for genome sequencing, 85 samples were found to be positive for the same
Principal Secretary Health & Family Welfare (PSHFW) shared the updated status of Covid pandemic and the status of vaccination of the eligible categories of beneficiaries. The meeting was informed that the positive cases and deaths were rising rapidly in some of the districts, with projections presented by CMC Ludhiana showing steep rise in the number of cases and peak around 6th April. The number would be decreasing by mid or late May, 2021, as per the estimates, which suggest that Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala are expected to contribute more cases and positivity is likely to be high in the younger population of 40 years of age or less.
DGP Dinkar Gupta apprised that since the last meeting when the decision to challan the Covid protocol offenders along with RT-PCR testing was taken, 90,360 persons had been challaned and tested for Covid. He requested for a special vaccination drive in the police lines.
While the availability of L2 and L3 beds in Government as well as in private sectors seemed to be comfortable for now, there was need to increase the bed availability in some of the private hospitals which are treating critically-ill patients, the Chief Minister stressed. He also directed all districts to ramp up sampling in general and sampling of contacts of Covid positive patients in particular, increasing RAT to 30%.
Strict monitoring of home isolation patients should be done, they should be transferred to the appropriate level of healthcare facilities if need be, directed the Chief Minister, asking all DCs and Civil Surgeons to ensure that no deaths occur in L2 facility as a rule, and there is early shifting of the patient to L3 facility once it is established that the patient needs critical care.
All districts have also been asked to strengthen their teams so that the data entry of Covid sampling and transportation of samples to the designated Lab takes minimum time, and the result is made available within 24 hours.
On the vaccination front, the Chief Minister directed that any photo ID shall be sufficient to approve the vaccination of eligible beneficiaries. All districts have been ordred to increase the number of vaccination centres by including all health facilities up to the Sub-Centre level, dispensaries, Ayurvedic and Homoeopathic healthcare facilities and private empanelled hospitals.
While 45+ age group shall be slated for vaccination from 1st of April, 2021, all the districts shall ensure that all health facilities do get started as Covid Vaccination Centres as early as possible and latest by 31.3.2021 with a view to understand the infrastructural bottlenecks, if any, so that there is smooth increase in the number of vaccination centres and the beneficiaries get hassle free vaccination experience.
All districts have also been advised to motivate all HCWs and FLWs to get themselves vaccinated and those who do not get vaccinated, should be strictly directed to undergo Covid testing every week to ensure that they do not get infected and thereby spread infection to others, the Chief Secretary disclosed after the virtual meeting.
Dr K.K. Talwar, Adviser Health & Medical Education to the Government of Punjab has suggested that routine non-Covid treatment in some of the selected private hospitals may be deferred by 2-4 weeks, and more ambulance be made available to the District Hospitals where there are no Medical Colleges.
The Chief Minister was assured that the Health department is ready to increase RT-PCR testing to 35,000 tests per day.