Punjab Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu on Friday said that the State has ramped up its sample collection and lab capabilities significantly which has contributed towards containing the spread of infection.
“Punjab has crossed the testing of 3.24 lakh samples for COVID-19. Since its first confirmed COVID-19 positive case on March 5, the State has increased its testing capacity per million figures to 9,949 per day as on June 30 which is better than the national average of 6653 tests per million per day,” he said.
After completing the testing of one lakh samples on June 4, the State has reached the milestone of testing three lakh samples within a month which shows the strides the State has been making in ramping up its testing capacity, he added.
Starting with an initial testing capacity of only 40 (as on March 9), Punjab has enhanced its capacity to 9000 tests per day as on date with concerted efforts, said Sidhu.
“To further increase the testing in the State, besides three labs in Government Medical Colleges at Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot, four new labs are being established at GADVASU Ludhiana,
RDDL Jalandhar, Forensic Science lab in Mohali, and Punjab Biotech Incubator in Mohali,” he said adding that currently, 15 TruNaat Testing machines have been installed in the District Hospitals of the state.
As early detection is the key to bring down mortality, therefore, to reduce the turnaround time, additional TruNaat machines are being procured by the state which gives test report in 1-1.5 hours, he said.
The Minister said that with the aim of containing the disease within a defined geographical area by early detection and prevent its spread to new areas, the State has decided to setup Micro-Containment Zones.
“Any specific area within a village or ward having more than five and up to 15 COVID-19 positive cases and with a population of not more than 500 shall be designated as Micro Containment Zone,” he said, adding that as on July 2, 42 micro-containment zones have been identified in the State.
The strategy would include geographical quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases or home quarantine social mobilization to follow preventive public health measures. In order to upscale the capacity of sample collection, the Health Department has been increasing the number of flu corners where sample collection is being done. Mobile teams have been formed in containment and micro-containment zones.
For the purpose of surveillance, around 995 Rapid Response Teams have been formed in the State to conduct active surveillance and identification of people with Influenza-like Illness or Severe Acute Respiratory Illness by the house to house visits.
To increase surveillance, the Department had conducted an extensive House to House Surveillance in the entire state manually. However, in order to digitize and improve the quality of this activity, an in-house Mobile Application has been made by the Department for House to House Community Surveillance for identifying people with co-morbidities and identifying their medical symptoms or contact history or travel history for COVID-19 related surveillance.
The survey covers all people above the age of 30 years and people with co-morbidities or is symptomatic even below 30 years of age. 37,89,542 persons have been surveyed till 2nd July 2020 on the mobile application.
Additionally, a pilot project, in collaboration with Centre for Policy Research, has been started in Kharar sub-division of SAS Nagar district for the testing of population in specific categories and occupations, people from urban wards. The survey is spatially structured, with sampling being done polling booth wise.
Also, the state is planning to initiate Rapid Antigen Testing for high risk contacts, SARI cases and in containment zones as probability of positivity is high among these groups in future.