Punjab CM seeks review of vaccine strategy, calls for flexibility for states to devise own local strategies
Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday urged the Centre to give flexibility to states to devise their local strategies for Covid vaccination, within the broad parameters of the Centre’s approach, while seeking a review of the strategy to allow all adults in high-risk areas to be immunized, along with patients with liver and kidney disease below the age of 45.
Captain Amarinder made these suggestions in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, immediately after the latter’s VC meeting with chief ministers of all states to review the Covid and vaccination situation. During the meeting, the Chief Minister apprised the Prime Minister of the situation in the state, and also the steps taken by his government to control and manage the disease. Union Home Minister Amit Shah was also present at the meeting, during which the Chief Minister assured the Centre of all-out efforts by his government to contain and manage Covid. He stressed on the fact that the UK variant which is dominating the second wave in the state, is reported by experts to be more virulent and affecting the youth disproportionately.
In his subsequent letter, the Chief Minister said his suggestions, some of which had been earlier submitted on March 17 to the PM, the Union Minister and the Union Health Minister, were based on the state government’s interaction with independent experts.
Amid reports of some states facing vaccine shortages, Captain Amarinder also requested the Union Ministry of Health & Family Welfare to share the schedule for supply of vaccines with the States over the next quarter, based on their confirmed supply orders.
Given that over 80% positive cases found in Punjab are of the UK variant, as per early reports from central laboratories, the Chief Minister also sought strengthening of viral sequencing in the state, which has been reporting around 3000 cases per day since the last 15 days, with around 8% positivity. The state currently has around 26,000 active cases with recovery rate of 87.3%, with death a matter of concern at 50-60 deaths a day and around 2% Case Fatality Rate (CFR) in the second surge, which struck the state in the latter half of February this year.
The Chief Minister reiterated his earlier request for covering all teachers and staff in all educational institutions for vaccination to enable resumption of physical classes once the surge abates. Also, occupation-based immunization for judges & judicial officers, bus drivers & conductors, elected representatives at all levels, etc should be allowed to take the vaccination, he stressed.
Captain Amarinder also urged the Prime Minister to direct central institutions like IISER, IMTech, AIIMS Bathinda and PGIMER, Chandigarh to increase the RT-PCR testing from Punjab. Further, PGIMER, Chandigarh should be asked to earmark at least 50 Covid ICU beds for patients being referred by the State, he added.
Currently, 55% Health Care Workers and around 90% Front Line Workers have got the 1st dose of vaccine, the Chief Minister earlier told the Prime Minister during the virtual meeting, while disclosing that more than 8.9 lakh persons aged 45+ have taken first dose of vaccination. Daily vaccinations have increased from 20,000 per day in mid-March to around 85-90,000 per day, with maximum of 1.32 lakh vaccinations on 3rd April. “We are targeting around 2 lakh per day by the end of this month.,” he said.
Extensive social media campaign is being undertaken through Mission Fateh to address the mis-information regarding COVID and vaccination hesitancy, he informed the Prime Minister, adding that all public healthcare facilities upto PHC levels have started working as COVID Vaccination Centres, thereby making the facility available to the public in their vicinity. All public health facilities have started vaccination on all 7 days of the week, while more private healthcare facilities are being motivated to work as COVID Vaccination Centres, he added.
Sharing the overall testing figures for the state, Captain Amarinder said 40,000 COVID tests per day (yesterday 44,250) are being conducted, of which more than 90% are RT-PCR and less than 10% Rapid Antigen Test (RAT). Punjab’s testing per million is higher than national average, and is now being increased to 50,000 per day, he added.
On the treatment facilities, he disclosed that bed occupancy at present is between 15-20% at Level-2 and Level-3. The State Experts Group holds daily review meeting at 7.30 p.m. with all Level-2 and Level-3 public & private healthcare facilities for effective management of COVID patients. Private hospitals managing Level-2 and Level-3 patients have been advised to postpone elective surgeries by two weeks with a view to create more beds for COVID patients.
Further, said the Chief Minister, 25 Advanced Life Support and 300 Basic Life support ambulances are available for shifting of patients. The State has engaged around 4,000 additional medical & paramedical manpower in the last one year. There is adequate availability of drugs & consumables required for management of COVID patients, including Remdesivir injection and other anti-viral drugs, he added.
Giving a sense of the reasons for the surge, the Chief Minister apprised the meeting that the primary driver of the spread appeared to be fatigue/ laxity in following COVID appropriate behavior, large political, social and religious gatherings, and efforts at normalization such as opening of schools and Colleges. High positivity was being seen in younger population, he pointed out.
On the measures taken by his government to check the spread, Captain Amarinder informed the meeting that a complete ban has been imposed on political gatherings till 30th April, along with night curfew across all districts from 9 pm to 5 am. Restrictions had been imposed on numbers in outdoor and indoor social gatherings, and in cinema halls and malls, while all educational institutions and Anganwadi Centres had been closed and school examinations postponed.
Persons not wearing masks are compulsorily taken for RT-PCR testing, with 2 lakh such people taken by police for RT-PCR testing, 43,000 persons issued challans, more than 250 persons arrested and more than 200 FIRs lodged against the violators. COVID Monitors had been appointed in all Hotels, Restaurants & Marriage Palaces to ensure COVID appropriate behaviour, he added. For the safety of non-vaccinated Health Care Workers and also the safety of the public, all such workers were being mandatorily asked to undergo testing, said the Chief Minister.