COVID-19 screening at the India-Pakistan border in Attari, Punjab (representational image) | Photo: ANI
Covid-19 screening at the India-Pakistan border in Attari, Punjab (representational image) | ANI
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Chandigarh: Punjab’s first confirmed coronavirus fatality, 70-year-old Banga resident Baldev Singh, who took ill after a visit to Italy and Germany, could be the state’s “super-spreader”. Health officials in the state suspect the two others he travelled with, including a religious leader, may also have widely transmitted the disease.

Super spreader” is the term used for a Covid-19 patient who ends up infecting a large number of people. The term was used widely for Patient-31 in South Korea, a 61-year-old woman who attended church while infected. The number of patients in South Korea reportedly showed a sudden surge after the event.

Out of the 33 coronavirus patients in Punjab, 23 are directly or indirectly related to Baldev Singh, who died on 18 March, and his two fellow travellers. After returning from abroad in the first week of March, Baldev Singh and the duo defied the authorities’ self-quarantine advisory and socialised heavily within and outside their villages. 

A massive search is now on to trace all those who came in contact with the trio from the time they returned to India until they were tested positive.


Also Read: One coronavirus patient infects 1.7 people in India, much lower than in China, Italy: Study


A big challenge

Punjab’s battle against coronavirus has found a big challenge in its vast population of NRIs and others who are known to travel abroad frequently. 

An estimated 97,000 people have arrived in Punjab since early January, with more than 30,000 asked to self-quarantine, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh said in a press statement Tuesday.

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“While all these people were thermally screened at the airports where they landed, it is now becoming evidently clear that thermal screening is not enough to identify a positive patient,” said a senior government doctor who is part of the state team handling the crisis.

“The patient can remain asymptomatic through the entire period of carrying the virus. Tracking these people who have returned from abroad including NRIs is keeping us on our toes virtually 24/7.” 

Of the 97,000 people, only eight were reported symptomatic. Baldev and the duo were asymptomatic. 

Tracking NRIs

Last week, the Punjab government made it mandatory for people who have arrived in the state over the past one month to self-report to health officials. 

The government also launched an app – Cova- largely to target the NRIs who had returned to Punjab and not informed the authorities. Apart from giving general information about the disease, the app prompts users who have returned from a foreign trip to inform authorities. 

Health officials are also trying to trace 144 people who landed in Punjab in the past months but allegedly gave the wrong addresses at airports. 

“All these people had already been screened at the airport in Delhi,” Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said on 18 March, adding that the government of India has been sharing reports of passengers with international travel with states. 

“While those found symptomatic are admitted in hospital and kept in isolation, the lists of asymptomatic passengers are shared with the states concerned. As a matter of precaution, the Punjab government contacts these passengers to re-verify their history and medical condition,” he added. 

Out of over 7,000 patients whose contact details were shared by government of India, he said, 144 people could not be traced. 

‘Super-spreaders’

A kirtani-cum-preacher, Baldev, accompanied by two men from his neighbouring village, visited Italy and Germany to attend religious congregations last month. 

The three returned to India on 7 March. Despite being told to stay indoors at the airport, they continued to  roam around in their villages. The two who accompanied Baldev on the 16-day trip have also tested positive, along with their family members. Fourteen members of Baldev Singh’s family have also tested positive. 

Despite beginning to display symptoms, Baldev Singh attended the famous Hola mohalla festival at Anandpur Sahib between 10 and 12 March where thousands of pilgrims across the state gather every year for three days. 

Baldev also visited people’s homes to offer sermons, with videos of some such visits now going viral. 

Herculean task

Officials in the Punjab government say they have identified 150 people the trio was in touch with after their arrival. “We have sealed almost 15 villages from where people used to visit the dera chief who accompanied Baldev Singh on this trip and is now a coronavirus patient,” said Jalandhar divisional commissioner Rahul Tewari. 

Announcements and requests are being made across these villages asking people to inform officials about those contacted by the trio after their return. The numbers, it is feared, could be in several hundreds. 

In light of Baldev Singh’s behaviour, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh asked state police Tuesday to take strict legal action against those violating home-quarantine orders.


Also Read: Modi’s poorly planned lockdown won’t save us from coronavirus, but will kill economy


 

 

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16 Comments Share Your Views

16 COMMENTS

  1. Why is Baldev Singh described as “kirtani-cum-preacher” when he is a xt.ia.n evangelist? Why leading readers to assume that Baldev Singh is a Sikh?

  2. Why is Baldev Singh described as “kirtani-cum-preacher” when he is a Christian evangelist? Why leading readers to assume that Baldev Singh is a Sikh?

  3. Baldev Singh, his two accomplishes and his family are wholly responsible for spreading this Corona Virus in Punjab. All the 33 cases in Punjab are due to him. Legal actions should be initiated against his family as they didn’t admit him in the Govt Hospital Nawanshahar/Banga as guided by Patel Hospital Jalandhar where he first went for treatment.

  4. This virus attack has only solution to be quarantine everyone ,but meantime everyone specially daily wagers need diet for survival and Govt on its own is not capable to feed these people ,my request to Govt Authorities , must involve social Service Societies in order to feed such people Systematically ,like Distribution of packages of ready to eat food ,
    Involving Local on level Gurudwara Commeties, not on langar pattern , distribution of food items like milk distribution at every Door . But,
    What, I am watching Govts only concerned about main areas you can order Online . but what about remote villages where most of the population is daily basis earners ,you are putting money in accounts,but Local village daily supply Shop are out off stocks or closed due curfew .

  5. The country should start ‘naming and shaming’ of those who knowingly spread the virus because of their foolish religious beliefs and adamant anti establishment attitude

  6. The government cannot spare people who defies or denies lockdown or quarantine. They should be jailed. If he dies in jail he’s the sole victim of virus. But, if he roam freely he’s a national threat at this moment.

  7. The Constitution of India imposes the citizens of India to have a sense of scientific temper. According to the Fundamental Duties under Article 51 A(h): [It shall be the duty of every citizen of India] To develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform

    Every bad experience we go through should be a lesson learnt. One of the lesson having moral significance is religion. It has prescribed a number of rules supported by stories, which have grown by the years and have not been challenged by the society and the subsequent government. I think we have reached a time period where we need to introspect and with the help of judiciary and suitable laws do the needful. It should be applicable to all religions in India irrespective of whether its lead by Tom Dick or. Harry and that he is Tall, dark and handsome.

    I failed to understand why the judiciary is still trying the interpret the religious laws in its traditional sense. In the past cruel practices in our system have been totally wiped out such as sati, human sacrifice, Devadasis to name a few.

    I believe that we have reached a point where we need to have a re look on what we carry forward in the name of our religion using this scientific temper.

  8. Good efforts by Pb Govt but some shameless people r not coming forward or getting tested . It is a tedious task to track these 144 people.

  9. I am not able to understand,why we gave free entry to NRIs in india?we must quarantine the foreign return people in official quarantine centres only.Nobody do it voluntarily once they return safe at their home.why our so intelligence team couldn’t understand the people of India is not atall so sincere n responsible……..i think agar virus ko entry hi nahi milti tho spread kaha s hota….. initial qurantine was the only method to avoid this lockdown ….

    • I agree . Leakages in initial screanings are the key contributors to the local transmission of covid 19.

  10. Govt should have used one of the island to contain spread. Instead of locking 10Lakh people now we are asking 130 crore people….

  11. These preachers are super spreaders, just not in the physical sense, they also create a false sense of safety in the believers saying that God is behind them and Covid 19 can not do any harm to them.
    About 10 Indonesians arrived at Hyderabad airport within a short period of three days and were let off since they were asymptomatic. They do not have any ostensible purpose other than evangelising . The thermal screening for the super bug is useless and everyone knows it. The administration was doing this only in phase one.
    The bugs trickled through and caused havoc in the local populations. Historians know how swathes of Red Indians died with the dreaded afflictions brought by white immigrants, how Indians were victims to the deadly small pox imported by foreigners. Scientists have been warning since long of a super virus that is more destructive than nuclear bombs. But politicos are duds and do something only in the last moment when people are caught unawares.

  12. I am from jalandhar & really scared of unaware stupid people here in jalandhar around 12,906 NRIs are reported till the day of curfew & only police can’t handle it we have just 350 beds & stupid people are not coming in front for checkup & in all this i am scared that 21 lakh population of this city is in danger

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