The Union health ministry has expressed serious concern over a worsening Covid-19 situation in eight Punjab districts on the basis of reports of its teams stationed in the state and suggested measures to curb the virus spread.
In a letter to Punjab principal secretary (health) Hussan Lal, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhusan on Saturday said the state government should take necessary action to tackle the rising number of cases in Amritsar, Hoshiarpur, Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Rupnagar, Mohali and Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar districts.
These are among the 50 worst-affected districts in the country, of which 30 are in Maharashtra and 11 in Chhattisgarh.
The Union health secretary said the situation in four Punjab districts — Mohali, Ludhiana, Patiala and Rupnagar — was even more worrying. He also underlined that the central teams have also reported lack of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour by the community and suggested stricter ground-level enforcement by the district authorities.
The central teams have been tasked to work along with district health authorities on pandemic preparedness and response with focus on testing, contact tracing and containment operations, Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and its enforcement, hospital infrastructure and availability of logistics and vaccination progress.
There is a need to enhance focus on contact tracing in Patiala and Ludhiana while contact tracing and surveillance in Mohali were hampered due to shortage of manpower, the letter read. Low pace of testing was reported from Patiala, the home district of Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh, it was said.
The Union health secretary said there is no RT-PCR testing laboratory in Rupnagar district and the issue be addressed urgently. “There is no dedicated Covid-19 hospital in Mohali and Rupnagar districts, and patients are being referred to neighboring districts or Chandigarh. Hospital bed occupancy rates in Mohali, Jalandhar, and Ludhiana are on the higher side and suitable arrangements be made with sufficient lead time to prepare for any surge in cases,” he added.
The teams also reported issues regarding procurement of ventilators for proper case management in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar district, he pointed out.
“Though ventilators are available in Rupnagar district, these are not being optimally utilised due to shortage of healthcare workers, particularly doctors and nurses. Contractual hiring of health care workers would go a long way in addressing this,” he claimed.
The central teams also reported shortage of staff in Patiala and Mohali. In Patiala and Ludhiana, a slow pace of vaccination was reported among those aged above 45 and with co-morbidities.
On Saturday, the Punjab CM had urged the Centre to share the schedule for supply of vaccines with the states over the next quarter based on confirmed orders as Punjab is left with only 5 days of supply.
“As many as 98% beds with oxygen support were occupied in Hoshiarpur, the highest among the 8 districts, followed by Mohali at 69%. Also, 89% of ICU beds are occupied in Ludhiana, followed by Mohali (80%) and SBS Nagar (70.6 %). Jalandhar has the highest number of 139 dedicated ambulances for Covid management, followed by Patiala at 57,” the letter further reads.