Post-Graduate Institute for Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh Director Prof Jagat Ram on Wednesday said that there is a rapid surge of Covid-19 cases in the second wave of the pandemic because lots of political, religious, social events have been held and people did not follow ‘Covid appropriate behavior’. There must be curb or restriction on political, social and religious events before it’s too late, he added.
He said that at PGIMER, all visiting patients are undergoing mandatory RT-PCR tests for the coronavirus disease irrespective of symptoms. Those patients found Covid-19 positive are enrolled in Covid hospital. As of now, there is no report regarding people infected with UK coronavirus strain admitted and treated in PGIMER.
The Director says the rate of Covid-19 cases across the country increased upto seven times between Mid-February and beginning of April. At PGIMER, Chandigarh, on February 15, this year 30 Covid-19 patients were enrolled but now almost all the beds in Covid hospital are filled with Covid-19 patients. He says the only way forward to eliminate the pandemic is to follow the protocol of wearing a face mask covering the nose, maintaining social distance and washing hands frequently.
In an interview with ‘The Pioneer’, Prof Jagat Ram talks about reasons of steep rise in Covid-19 cases as well as arrangement made for Covid-19 patients at PGIMER, Chandigarh: Excerpts from the interview:
Chandigarh and its neighbouring States Haryana and Punjab are witnessing a second wave of Covid-19. How do you read the new numbers?
I think the numbers are worrying. Firstly, this wave is much steeper than what we have seen in the past. It has taken much less time to cross the one lakh cases per day mark this time in the country. In Chandigarh and its neighbouring states too, there is a steep rise in covid-19 cases from Mid February 15 to beginning of April. Initially, the first wave of Covid-19 involved those people who were having comorbidities like diabetes, chronic kidney diseases, heart diseases, lung diseases and high age groups. Second wave of the pandemic has involved other people who were not age related but younger one even with or without comorbidities. Young people are affected more in the second wave because they normally do not follow covid-19 protocol. Mortality is less among young people in the second wave. Children are less affected in the second wave of the pandemic. The second wave of Covid-19 is because people became casual about Covid appropriate behaviour, especially about wearing masks, not maintaining social distancing, stepping out in crowded places, attending large social functions. Lots of political, religious, social events were held and people did not follow ‘Covid appropriate behavior’.
Amid surge in Covid-19 cases in Chandigarh, Haryana, Punjab and other States, what are the arrangements made at PGIMER?
UT Chandigarh is surrounded by states like Himachal Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttarakhand and Covid-19 patients from these States are here. Asymptomatic or mild patients are not admitted as they are given medicines and other necessary advisories including living in home isolation. Patients having comorbidities like diabetes, chronic kidney diseases, heart diseases, cancer, lung diseases are admitted at Covid hospital in PGIMER which has 2200 beds for covid and non-covid patients. We have a 200-bed facility for Covid patients and 170 positive patients have been admitted so far, out of which 50 per cent belong to Punjab, 25 per cent to Chandigarh and remaining to other states. Around 1700 non-covid-19 patients have been enrolled. 190 non-covid patients are in ICU. This is the highest number in terms of admission of patients in any hospital of north India. We have to strike a balance between the virus patients and those coming to the hospital with other ailments. We are seriously following Centre Government’s guidelines including ‘Test, Track and Treat’ to stop this emerging peak of the virus. We have scaled up the rate of RT-PCR tests, with a special focus on those areas where positive rates are high in Chandigarh. We are taking all measures to ensure that every patient can get treatment.
Amid rising Covid-19 cases, what would you suggest to the people?
We must take precautions as the cases are on rise again. We must adhere to the safety protocol like washing hands thoroughly with soap or using sanitizer, wear masks and maintain social distancing. Follow Covid Appropriate behaviour even after vaccination because it will take time to develop antibodies against the virus.
You recently took the second dose of vaccine. Have you received any side effects after vaccination? Has PGIMER received any complaints regarding side effects of Covid-19 vaccine?
I took the first dose of Covishield vaccine at the vaccination centre, PGIMER on February 6 and the second dose on March 27. I had no adverse reaction after receiving the vaccine jab. However some people say they receive minor side effects such as allergic reactions, body ache, fever and pain. No major side effect has been reported so far. This is a safe vaccine, with no serious side effects or any hospitalization reported. The need of the hour is that people must come forward to take the vaccine.
Do you think misinformation about the vaccine in the public remained a challenge for the health department?
Now, more people are coming out for vaccination. The vaccine will protect the people against the attack of Covid- 19 virus and hence, it is very important to get vaccinated in view of numbers peaking again. One should follow Covid Appropriate behaviour even after vaccination because it will take time to develop antibodies against the virus.
If one is taking medicines for illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and hypertension, can he/she take the vaccine?
Definitely, such persons are at high risk of developing the infection and progressing towards severe illness. The vaccine will be safe for them and they are among the priority groups.
How many people infected with UK coronavirus strain were enrolled in PGIMER?
I am not sure about enrollment of UK strain patients in PGIMER. We are not testing patients for UK strain. Out of 170 Covid-19 patients enrolled at Covid-19 hospital in PGIMER, 84 are from Punjab. We had set samples to the National Institute of Virology (NIV), Pune. Till January’s report, no patients having UK strain have been found in PGIMER. Our samples for the month of February and March have gone for testing for the new strain at NIV, Pune and results are awaited. Some people infected with UK coronavirus strain might have been admitted here. Treatment remains the same and vaccination is also the same.