Amid the spike in COVID-19 cases and fatalities in Punjab, chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh, on Wednesday, March 31, said stricter restrictions would be imposed if the situation does not improve over the next week.
While addressing a virtual meeting with top health, administrative, and police officers, the CM said, "I will watch things for a week, and then if there is no improvement, we may have to go for stricter curbs."
In the meeting, the CM and the government executives discussed the importance of strict enforcement of masks and social distancing norms and increasing police presence in different parts of the state, The Indian Express reported.
The CM directed officials to contact eligible people at the mohalla level in the worst-affected districts and encourage them to get vaccinated, especially in areas with high case numbers and cities with over 300 cases. He also ordered the stricter implementation of COVID restrictions and guidelines worst affected cities of Ludhiana, Jalandhar, Mohali and Amritsar.
The head of the state's COVID expert committee, Dr K K Talwar, said sterner enforcement of restrictions were required in urban areas, where more cases were being registered regularly.
The Director-General of Police, Dinkar Gupta, said since March, 1.30 lakh people were tested for Reverse Transcription-Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) testing after being found moving around without masks. He also revealed that 391 of them were found to be positive.
SAS Nagar, Kapurthala, Patiala, SBS Nagar, Jalandhar, Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, and Ludhiana reported the maximum positivity rate, and the state's overall positivity stands at 7.6 per cent as of March 24, 2021.
The chief minister also ordered to discontinue the one-hour silence on Saturday to commemorate the COVID warriors, citing the inconvenience it causes to commuters.
He also raised concern regarding the high death rate in the state, to which Dr Talwar clarified that it was due to patients not arriving at hospitals on time and the state's high comorbidity rate.
Talwar, in the meeting, also informed that chronic diseases account for 80-85 per cent of patients who die.
The CM instructed the administration to develop a robust mechanism of bringing people with comorbidities to the hospital as soon as possible and strictly supervise the home isolated people. He urged religious and political leaders to support COVID-appropriate behaviour.
Centre Criticises, CM Hits Back
A day after the Centre criticised the Punjab government over COVID-19 mismanagement, the Punjab CM on Wednesday said the state consistently performs more tests per million than the national average.
In his statement, Amarinder Singh said that the situation had been better if the Central government had agreed to the state's request for allowing vaccination of all people above 50 years of age sooner rather than delaying the decision to include the 45+ age population by almost two months.
The Centre claimed that the Punjab government was not doing adequate COVID testing and isolation, to which the CM reacted that his government had placed extreme restrictions on social gatherings and closed all educational institutions, as well as enforcing night curfews from 9 pm to 5 am in 11 of the most heavily affected districts.
He pointed out that the state government had repeatedly written to the Centre requesting a review of the current immunisation strategy. The same was also pointed out by the state Chief Secretary in the meetings.
The CM asserted that vaccination in a campaign that includes all age groups in selected areas would yield better outcomes than the periodic cycles of vaccination targeting a small section of the population in each cycle.
He also reiterated his call 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.
Stating the factual position on the testing front, Singh said that the positivity rate was around 10 per cent during the first peak, which occurred in September 2020, and the state was testing 30,000 COVID samples per day. Currently, the positivity rate is over seven per cent, and the state is testing approximately 40,000 COVID samples per day.
He mentioned that the state was regularly testing about 90 per cent RT-PCR and around 10 per cent Rapid Antigen Test, with a per million testing rate of 1,96,667 compared to the national average of 1,82,296.
He added that during the first peak in September 2020, Punjab had increased contact tracing to 10 contacts per positive case and that during the second peak, more than 15 contacts per positive case are being traced.