From Our Bureau                       

13th MAY 2020

A total of 74,281 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in the country so far and the death toll mounted to 2,415 on Wednesday. As many as 24,386 patients have been cured so far. In the last 24 hours, 3,525 new confirmed cases were reported. The total number of active cases now is 47,480.

While the doubling time in the past 14 days was 11, it has improved to 12.6 in the last three days. The fatality rate is 3.2 percent and recovery rate is pegged at 32.8 percent. As of now, there are 2.75 percent active COVID-19 patients in ICU, 0.37 percent on ventilators and 1.89 percent on oxygen support.

The testing capacity has increased in the country to 1,00,000 tests per day through 347 Government laboratories and 140 private laboratories. Cumulatively, 18,56,477 tests have been done so far for COVID-19, including 94,708 samples on Tuesday.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare, held a high level meeting, through video conference, with Balbir Singh Sidhu, Health Minister of Punjab.  This is a part of series of one-to-one discussions with various States/Union Territories  Health Ministers and Collectors of Red Zone and High priority districts to take stock of preparedness, and the actions being taken for management of COVID-19 in the States/UTs.

“Today, there are nine States/UTs that have not reported any cases of COVID-19 in last 24 hrs. i.e. Andaman & Nicobar Islands, Arunachal Pradesh, Dadra & Nagar Haveli, Goa, Chhattisgarh, Ladakh, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram. Also, Daman & Diu, Sikkim, Nagaland and Lakshadweep have not reported any cases till date,” he pointed out.

The Union Minister stated that as of now 900 dedicated COVID hospitals with 1,79,882 beds (Isolation beds: 1,60,610 and ICU beds: 19,272) and 2,040 dedicated COVID Health Centres with 1,29,689 beds (Isolation beds: 1,19,340 and ICU beds: 10,349) along with 8,708 quarantine centres and 5,577 COVID Care Centres with 4,93,101 beds are now available to combat COVID-19 in the country.

The Central Government has also provided 78.42 lakh N95 masks and 42.18 lakh Personal Protective Equipments (PPEs) to the States/ UTs / Central Institutions, he  added.

Dr S K Singh, Director (NCDC), made a brief presentation on the status of COVID-19 cases in the State and its management. As on 12th May 2020, all 22 districts stand affected by COVID-19 with total 1,913 cases; 3 districts (Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala) are in Red Zone and 15 are in the Orange Zone. The total samples collected are 43,999 with sample positivity rate at 4.3 percent.

The Nanded Hazoor Sahib returnees constituted the bulk of cases with 1,225 positive among the total of 4,216.  The State has another challenge with the number of migrant labour returning being around 20,521.

Dr. Harsh Vardhan had detailed interaction with Balbir Singh Sidhu and the DMs of the districts of Ludhiana, Amritsar, Patiala and Jalandhar of the various issues regarding COVID-19 management and the issues that form a priority.

He appreciated the steps taken so far regarding the stringent adherence of the lockdown measures; meticulously done contact tracing; screening of all population in the containment areas; home delivery of essential services items and medicines during the lockdown to the population; and also the surveillance done for Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) / Influenza Like Illness (ILI) surveillance in the unaffected districts.

Dr Harsh Vardhan said that Punjab has done well in operationalising the Ayushman Bharat – Health and Wellness Centers. These could be further used for screening of people with diabetes, hypertension and three common cancers (oral, breast and cervix), and for extension of comprehensive primary healthcare services to the community at large. 

He also asked the State to further strengthen SARI/ILI screening, in addition to ensuring that non-COVID health issues such as immunisation drives, TB case finding and treatment, providing blood transfusion for dialysis patients, treatment of cancer patients, ANC of pregnant women, etc., are not adversely affected.

As the available data indicate a decline in the notification of TB cases in the private and public clinics, the State needs to give priority to this area too. Pointing out that timely payment of salaries and performance linked incentives would boost the morale of the frontline health workers, he asked the State government requested to release these in time.

The State Health Minister stated that even during the lockdown, the OPD services had been continued and non-COVID healthcare delivery has not suffered. They have screened 6,58,000 population through house-to-house surveillance. Punjab has developed its own dashboard which generates a heat map which is used to define and demarginalise the emerging hotspots for effective containment measures.

Sidhu said that all the returning pilgrims from Nanded Sahib have been screened, tested and quarantined to prevent them from interacting with the community at large, thus effectively preventing the spread of the transmission. Moreover, a death audit has also been undertaken which has indicated that patients with co-morbidities formed a large percentage of the COVID-19 deaths in Punjab. Also, more than 85 percent patients are asymptomatic.  All the guidelines/advisories/protocols have been strictly been followed in the State for guiding their medical interventions, he added. (eom)

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