Even as Punjab is repeatedly hitting the highest point in registering daily COVID-19 cases and related deaths, Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday once again ruled out complete and harsh lockdown as of now. However, he also issued a warning to the people against laxity in adherence to the curbs imposed in the State, making it clear, “if the situation does not improve, I would be forced to consider a total lockdown”.
Chief Minister’s decision came on the day when the state’s Health and Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu advocated for a complete lockdown across the State “at least for 10 days” noting that cases have reached its peak.
On the other hand, the Chief Minister stated that he had, so far, refrained from ordering a sweeping lockdown in the State because it will hurt the poor the most and would lead to exodus of migrant labourers, plunging industries into chaos again. “However, if the people do not strictly comply with the restrictions in place, harsher steps might have to be taken,” he added.
Notably, Punjab is currently in a “soft lockdown” situation, with numerous curbs in place, with additional restrictions imposed by the government on Sunday. The state police chief Dinkar Gupta told the meeting that all measures were being taken to enforce the current curbs strictly.
Capt Amarinder, chairing a high-level virtual meeting to review the COVID situation, also ordered a stop on all take-away deliveries from restaurants, which was being used by youngsters as a pretext to move out of their homes.
Only home deliveries of food should be allowed, he directed the officials. Permission was also given for shops selling fertilizers to remain open.
HOSPITALS OVERWHELMED, CM ORDERS BOOSTING BED CAPACITY
Asserting that he would not allow Punjab to go the way of some other states, where patients could be seen lying out on the roads, Chief Minister said that industry should be encouraged to use their CSR funds for vaccination and treatment of their labour suffering from mild or moderate illness, so that they can stay at home, thus reducing pressure on hospitals.
Underlining the need to step up preparedness amid projections of a peak in the coming days, the Chief Minister ordered a 20 percent increase in bed capacity in the next 10 days. He directed the Health and Medical Education Departments to get stadiums, gymnasiums and other such places ready to house patients. Tented camps should be set up, and gyms or halls should be converted into L2 and L3 facilities, he said, adding that “we have to be prepared for the worst.”
He also directed use of staff from Rural Development and other Departments to augment the workforce for tracing of COVID contacts in rural areas. The directives came as the state Health Minister said that the situation was grim with only 300 beds now available at L3 in the State. Hospitals were getting overwhelmed, he added.
PUNJAB’S 17% DEATHS HAVE “NO CO-MORBID CONDITIONS”
Health Secretary Hussan Lal pointed out that the state’s positivity rate had on Sunday stood at 12 percent, with the Malwa region showing increased cases in the last seven to 10 days. With L3 occupancy 90 percent and in some cases 100 percent, the situation was grim, he said, adding that CFR was close to two percent and higher (at 2.7 percent) in rural areas. Home deaths currently were also at two percent. The worrying factor was that 17 percent of the all deaths had no comorbid conditions, he said.
NEED TO PRIORITIZE MONITORING OF HOME ISOLATION CASES: Dr TALWAR
Dr KK Talwar, head of the state’s COVID Expert Committee, stressed on the need to prioritize monitoring of home isolation cases to identify serious patients fast, especially in rural areas. With no clarity still on whether mutation was responsible for the current spread, he also underlined the importance of increasing L3 bed capacity.
ENHANCED BED CAPACITY, MANPOWER: TEWARI
Medical Education Secretary DK Tewari disclosed that from 343 in the first week of April, ICU bed capacity had increased to 770 and would be further enhanced to 900 by the end of the week. “Total oxygen beds will be increased from 1500 to 1800 this week and further to 2000,” he said.
To augment manpower, 700 MBBS final year students, 90 BDS final year students, and 70 senior residents would be recruited immediately, while 86 nurses will also join in the next one week, he said, adding that a total of 473 new recruitments will be made this month.
NOW ACCREDITED, YELLOW CARD JOURNALISTS, POWERCOM EMPLOYEES ALSO FRONTLINE WARRIORS IN PUNJAB
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Monday announced all accredited and yellow card journalists in the State to be included in the list of frontline warriors in the fight against COVID-19, with all power corporation employees in the State also been brought into the ambit. The employees, along with the journalists, will now be eligible for all benefits, including priority vaccination, that frontline workers are entitled to from the State Government, said the Chief Minister at a high-level COVID review meeting.
“Journalists have been taking grave risks in covering the pandemic from the ground, and helping spread awareness on it, for the past more than one year,” said the Chief Minister. They need to be protected, he said, adding that though many states had raised the demand for their inclusion in the frontline workers category, the Government of India had so far not responded. “Our government has decided to provide the frontline protection to the journalists and also Power Corporation employees, who are also endangering their lives while maintaining critical power services in hospitals and other vital institutions,” he added.