Chandigarh: With Punjab left with only 5 days of supply (5.7 lakh Covid vaccine doses) at the current levels of vaccinating 85000-90000 persons a day, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has urged the Centre to share the schedule for supply of vaccines with the States over the next quarter based on their confirmed supply orders.
Hoping that the Centre would send fresh batches of vaccine supply soon, the Chief Minister said if the state is able to meet its target of 2 lakh vaccines a day, then its current supplies will last only 3 days. He said he had written to the Prime Minister & the Union Health Minister to give confirmed supply schedules.
Despite being a slow-starter in vaccination, Punjab has vaccinated more than 16 lakh persons, at an average of around 85000-90000 per day, he said during a video conference convened by Congress president Sonia Gandhi to discuss the Covid situation. The meeting was attended by chief ministers of the Congress-ruled states, as well as senior party leaders, including Rahul Gandhi.
Captain Amarinder said people in Punjab were still not coming out in large numbers for the vaccination due to the massive anger prevailing against the Government of India on the issue of Farm Laws. Since Punjab has majority population among the agriculture community, even the common man is affected by the farmers’ agitation, he said, adding “this anger is impacting the vaccination drive.” He said his government is undertaking an extensive media campaign to address the mis-information regarding Covid and vaccination hesitancy.
Ranking 18th in the country at present in terms of cases reported, Punjab is showing around 8% positivity, with an average of around 3000 cases per days for the past 15 days, the Chief Minister apprised Sonia. The number of cases is slightly stable, he pointed out, adding that “this shows that the steps taken in the last 3 weeks are in the right direction.” Even in the graphs put up by Health Ministry in Prime Minister’s review meeting yesterday, the “curve appears to be flattened over the past fortnight,” he said, disclosing that the state currently has around 27,200 active cases with recovery rate of 87.1%.
Thanking Sonia for giving the opportunity “to discuss and learn from each other on Covid management”, the Chief Minister, however, said deaths are a concern for Punjab, with around 50-60 daily deaths with a little under 2% Case Fatality Rate (CFR) in the second surge. Overall, CFR is 2.77% for all reported cases since March 2020, he added.
Pointing out that on April 9, a total of 3459 persons tested positive out of 41,347 samples tested and 56 deaths were reported, he said the high death rate has been on account of late reporting to hospitals, high co-morbidity (non-communicable diseases). Also, Punjab has reported all its cases very faithfully, he added.
Noting that high positivity is being seen in the younger population and as per reports received from NCDC and IGIB, more than 80% samples have been found to be positive for the more contagious and virulent UK variant, the Chief Minister shared with the Congress president the various measures taken by his government to combat the spread. These, he said, included complete ban on political gatherings till 30th April, imposition of night curfew across all districts from 9 pm to 5 am, restrictions on numbers in outdoor and indoor social gatherings and in cinema halls and malls, and closure of all educational institutions and Anganwadi Centres, with school exams being postponed. He said his government had to impose ban on political gatherings as opposition leaders like Arvind Kejriwal and Sukhbir Badal were holding rallies in the state in violation of Covid norms.
Persons not wearing masks are compulsorily taken for RT-PCR testing, he said, adding that 2 lakh such people have so far been taken by police for RT-PCR testing. Further, Covid Monitors have been appointed in all Hotels, Restaurants & Marriage Palaces to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour. All Health Care Workers who have not been vaccinated are being tested weekly for general safety, he revealed.
Captain Amarinder also gave details of testing and contact tracing, revealing that more than 40,000 COVID tests are being conducted per day of which more than 90% are RT-PCR, with Punjab’s testing per million is higher than national average. Testing average is 1350 per million (over last 7 days) against all-India average of 824 per million. Testing is being increased to 50,000 per day, he added.
“On Contact Tracing, we are slightly lower than desired number of 25-30 – currently we are at 13.4 contacts for every case, but we plan to increase it to 20 by within a fortnight,” said the Chief Minister. Underlining the importance of tracing and testing, he said a total of 20.8 lakh who had been in contact with Covid patients had been identified, of whom 8.36 lakh had been tested and 90000 had tested positive. The state is ramping up tracing, he said, adding that he has asked DCs to use available staff in all departments to increase testing.
The Chief Minister assured the meeting that the state has all arrangements in place to ensure proper and timely treatment of Covid patients, with sufficient availability of beds, drugs, Remdesivir injection etc. Punjab will do its best to contain and manage Covid as we did last year, he said.
Captain Amarinder also apprised Sonia of his communication with the central government on Covid and vaccine management, including the two letters he has written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, seeking flexibility for states to devise their local vaccination strategies. He added that he had requested the Centre for inclusion of patients with liver & kidney disease below age of 45 and to focus on immunizing all adults in high-risk areas, besides covering all teachers & staff in all educational institutions, besides occupation-based immunization for judges & judicial officers, bus drivers & conductors, elected representatives at all levels, etc.