Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday directed the DGP to strictly enforce closure of liquor vends in cities and towns by 6.30 p.m., as per the existing guidelines, to check the escalating cases of Covid in the state, which has crossed 46000 total cases with more than 1200 fatalities, with projections of further spike in the coming weeks.
The liquor shops will remain open till 10 p.m. in rural areas for now, as per the guidelines in force till August 31, after which the decision will be reviewed and new guidelines issued accordingly.
The Chief Minister’s orders came amid reports of liquor shops in cities staying open way past the 6.30 pm closure time for other shops. He was reviewing the Covid situation in the state with top officials and health/medical experts through Video Conference.
Given the spread of the pandemic now in the rural areas of the state too, the Chief Minister said he will be writing to village Sarpanches to ensure all due precautions and enforcement of safety protocols.
In response to the feedback that ventilators received from the Government of India were causing some trouble, the Chief Minister ordered a thorough check of those by experienced engineers and doctors.
Captain Amarinder also inquired into allegation of mismanagement at a Faridkot medical college, which had been raised by Faridkot MLA Kikki Dhillon, and asked the Health Department if the college had sufficient equipment and manpower to deal with the Covid crisis. Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan informed him that an IAS officer, who is also an MBBS doctor, has been deputed to handle Covid care management at the Faridkot hospital.
Pointing out that Punjab was at the bottom of the list of 10 states with the highest cases, Vini Mahajan said the fatality rate was a matter of concern. The state was, however, preparing for the surge, with the support of private hospitals, she said.
She disclosed that during a Video Conference with Cabinet Secretary, GoI, it was decided that Hydroxychloroquine be given to Covid patients in home quarantine and their contacts. She informed that the state government had so far received only Rs 101 crore from the Centre for Covid expenses, for which utilisation certificate had been sent to them. She said another Rs 30 crores were expected to come soon, but the state government had actually sought much more.
Vini pointed out that the Centre would stop giving free PPE kits to the state, which was finding it difficult to manage with the resource crunch and was pressing for relaxation in expenses from the SDRF ceiling. She further said the state had also requested the Centre to increase beds for Covid care at PGI Chandigarh and make its other two centres in Punjab operational for Covid care. AIIMS Bathinda had also not started Covid care yet, she pointed out, adding that the same had been brought to the notice of the central government.
Dr KK Talwar, in his presentation, referred to the continuous surge in Covid cases, which had crossed 46000, with 1219 fatalities. The number of patients and deaths in Level 3 care had also gone up, he disclosed, adding that efforts were on to expand ICU capacity at Level 3. The focus would be on targeting patients above the age of 40, among whom the fatality rate was higher, he added. Private hospitals were also being supported in expansion of the facilities, with mobile vans also being pushed into service for clinical examination and testing, he said, calling for increase in mobile van outreach. Home sampling had also now been permitted for Covid testing, he told the meeting.
Dr Talwar further informed the Chief Minister that among the four major cities, Amritsar was showing a constant number, while Patiala was stabilising, but Jalandhar and Ludhiana had in fact shown a decline. The last two days had shown decline in patients at the DMC and Civil Hospital in Ludhiana, he said. Cities and towns like Kapurthala, Muktsar, Mohali and Nawanshahr were, however, seeing an increase in cases, he added.
Pointing to the projections for the next two weeks, Dr Talwar stressed the importance to optimising contact tracing to ensure timely testing, isolation and treatment. Incidentally, fatalities were currently fewer than the earlier projections, he said, hoping the trend would sustain with the state government’s continuous efforts.
The Health Department presentation by Secretary Hussan Lal showed that testing in the state had increased from 17000 to 24000 a day over the past week and was slated to touch 30000 daily by the end of August. Positivity, in contrast, had come down from 9.31% for the week of August 3-10 to 8.13% for August 11-18 to 7.27% for August 19-25, he added. The increase in deaths was mostly in Level 3, he said, adding that new measures were being formulated as part of the Action Plan for the next phase, beginning September 1. These would include Mobile Testing Clinics in Ludhiana & Patiala, with GMC Patiala and CMC, DMC Ludhiana to provide teams. Further, 35 MMUs will be relocated to do sampling in the high risk areas of major cities and orders were being placed for procurement of 6 ALS, 22 BLS (small) and 105 BLS ambulances.
Medical Education Department Secretary, DK Tiwari, apprised the meeting about the tertiary care being provided in medical colleges. He disclosed that plasma therapy was being provided to serious patients but it remained an experimental treatment, with survival rate found to be only 30-50%.
Noting the positive results of the lockdown in the state, DGP Dinkar Gupta suggested carrying the closures forward, with gyms staying closed and restaurants to be allowed only for home delivery. Use of disposable cups and plates should be encouraged and a campaign should be launched against self-medication, he suggested. He disclosed that the Punjab Police had so far lost 11 officers to Covid, with 1600 active cases, 8 serious and 1 in critical condition due to the coronavirus.