Indication of Punjab moving towards community transmission stage of Covid-19: Amarinder Singh

Ghughuti Bulletin

NEW DELHI: Chief minister
Amarinder Singh said Friday there were indications that Punjab was moving towards the community transmission stage of
coronavirus outbreak, but asserted his
government was gearing up for every challenge, and announced mass testing in Covid-19 hotspots from next week.

Speaking to the media through video conference, Singh quoted a PGIMER study to say that the virus infection is likely to touch its peak by mid-September and may likely affect 58 per cent of the country’s population.

“….Covid-19 epidemic in India is estimated to reach its peak in mid-September 2020 at a point where 58 per cent of population has been infected,” he said, quoting the projections by experts of the Department of Community Medicine at PGIMER in Chandigarh.

The prediction are “horrendous and frightening,” he said.

Quoting another figure from the PGI projection, he said the virus can infect up to 87 per cent of population of Punjab and other states.

The PGI Chandigarh, however, later clarified “it is not aware that any expert/faculty member from the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health of the Institute has carried out any study or estimate that Covid-19 may peak by mid-September and can infect 58 per cent of country’s population”.

A Punjab CMO official later said the report cited by Singh is an assessment of Dr Shankar Prinja, the Additional Professor of Health Economics, the Department of Community Medicine and School of Public Health, PGIMER, and his team, using standard mathematical models with Punjab data provided to him.

The official said the State Committee on Health Sector Response and Procurement, headed by Vini Mahajan, with ex-PGI director Dr KK Talwar as professional advisor, had sought an urgent assessment of Punjab’s Covid-19 scenario.

Meanwhile, the CM said most of the 27 positive cases reported in Punjab on Thursday (the maximum daily increase for the state) were those of secondary transmission, and expressed apprehension of the state moving towards the community transmission stage of the outbreak.

“27 cases are not primary cases, as most of these are cases of secondary transmission,” he said.

However, he said his government was readying itself for every eventuality, and had planned arrangements in four phases — for 2,000 patients, 10,000 patients, 30,000 patients and 1 lakh patients needing isolation and treatment.

With 25,000 Rapid Testing kits expected to arrive, mass testing in hotpots will also begin from Monday, he said.

Singh said Punjab will allow district-wise relief from lockdown, which the state cabinet extended till May 1, only to farmers so that harvesting of Rabi crop is not hampered.

Singh, however, said the lockdown could not be indefinite and the government was also looking for ways to extricate the state from the restrictions and enable it to function even while fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

A high-powered committee with several doctors, medical and other experts, was examining the situation and will soon submit its report on the lockdown exit strategy, the Chief Minister said.

He said it is just the start of the “war” and the situation threatens to get worse over the next few months for India. Lifting the lockdown would not be easy for any state in the present situation, he said.

“The only good thing about coronavirus is that the drugs supply line has been broken,” Singh said.

The chief minister rejected as “absolutely insufficient” the Rs 15,000 crore package by the Central government for improving health infrastructure. “How can this be enough for the nearly 1.4 billion people?”

On the number of coronavirus tests in the state, the Chief Minister admitted that the 2,877 tests conducted so far were simply not enough, given Punjab’s population of 2.8 crore.

On the impact of the
Tablighi Jamaat event on the spread of coronavirus in Punjab, Singh said his government had received a list of 651 people who had entered the state, of whom 636 have so far been traced and 27 found positive (including 10 contacts of these TJ Nizamuddin attendees), but 15 of them are still untraceable, he said.

Among the nearly 1.5 lakh NRIs and foreign returnees, the state has traced and quarantined the majority, he said, adding quarantine period was over in 33,166 cases of foreign travel, but 2,032 still remained in restrictions.

He said the state was expecting a bumper wheat production of 185 lakh tonnes and is making arrangements its harvest.

With harvesting of wheat slated to begin on April 15, he said the state would increase the number of Mandis from 1,800 to 3,800 this year.

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