Chandigarh: The Punjab government has decided to conduct community testing of anyone suffering acute respiratory trouble, to assess and stem the spread of Covid-19 in the state.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh Wednesday directed the state’s health department to make mobile testing vans operational in all districts that have hotspots of the Covid-19 pandemic, to conduct community testing for breathing troubles.
“Respiratory discomfort is one of the symptoms of Covid-19, and with these tests, the government intends to proactively control the possibility of community transmission,” said Anurag Aggarwal, Punjab’s principal secretary for health.
“In case a person is found to have severe breathing problems from these endemic hotspots, he or she will be tested for Covid-19 on the recommendations of a team of doctors,” he said.
Number of cases without travel history rises
The decision was taken on the day when the number of coronavirus-positive cases in Punjab rose to 46. Three fresh cases have been reported in Mohali, and one each in Ludhiana and Amritsar, in the past 24 hours. At least three of these cases are without any known travel history, though the government is still trying to trace their movements.
The state has witnessed four deaths since 18 March, of which one patient, in Ludhiana, did not have a history of travel.
At least three major colonies that house thousands of workers from economically weaker sections of society have been sealed, after Covid-19 cases were reported from there — Amarpura in Ludhiana, and Nayagaon and Jagatpura in Mohali.
Eighteen villages in Punjab have already been completely sealed by the administration following the deaths of two related Covid-19 patients who had gone around these villages since their arrival from Germany on 17 March. While one of these patients died on 18 March, the other died on 29 March.
CM Amarinder has also ordered an aggressive drive to scale up the number of isolation beds to 5,000 in the next few days, and even further going forward, to meet any eventuality.
“Though there are no confirmed estimates available, the state government is preparing for the worst case scenario,” said Chief Secretary Karan Avtar Singh in a press statement issued Wednesday evening.
Meanwhile, a week after the Punjab government imposed a complete curfew on 23 March, it has decided to deploy paramilitary personnel to control gathering of crowds, and maintain strict social distancing. In Jalandhar, the district administration has deployed six sections of the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF) at vulnerable locations of the city.
Paramilitary forces will be deployed in hotspots as well as busy vegetable and fruit markets where, according to reports social, distancing norms are being violated with impunity.
The state government had allowed people access to these markets for a short duration every day, but reports from large cities like Ludhiana and Jalandhar say people in large numbers have started gathering in markets and mandis, forcing the administration to review its decision.
Avoid Baisakhi celebrations
Following the serious repercussions of the religious gathering at Nizamuddin in Delhi, Punjab’s cooperation and jails minister, Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa, Wednesday appealed to the Akal Takht Jathedar, Giani Harpreet Singh, to give a message to the community to not congregate on the occasion of Baisakhi.
“The sacred festival of Baisakhi, which marks the day Khalsa was born, is fast approaching and during which the sangat visits gurudwaras. But now the situation is such that vast gatherings of sangat should be avoided,” Randhawa said in a press statement.
“You are requested to lead the community as you have always done and ask the Sikh sangat to not gather this time and instead stay in their homes.”