Amid fresh spike, Punjab fails to meet target of 30k tests per day

In fact, on at least nine days from February 10 to 23, less than 20,000 tests a day were conducted, even as the number of daily cases started showing an uptick.

Ever since Covid cases started surging in Punjab over the last two weeks, the state has failed to meet its target of conducting at least 30,000 tests a day (1,000 tests/million population) every single day, shows data compiled by The Indian Express.

In fact, on at least nine days from February 10 to 23, less than 20,000 tests a day were conducted, even as the number of daily cases started showing an uptick.

On Tuesday, as per the latest media bulletin, the number of fresh cases in Punjab crossed the 400-mark as 426 new cases were reported.

But despite the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoH&FW) flagging that Punjab was among five states (four others being Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh & Madhya Pradesh) witnessing a surge in daily cases even as national positivity rate has been declining, the state conducted a mere 13,174 tests on Tuesday, as per the latest media bulletin.

On February 14, the state conducted 17,791 tests, while on February 15, mere 15,321 tests were conducted. The testing further plummeted to just 12,826 tests on February 16. Then on February 17 and 18, just 18,978 and 19,976 tests were conducted, respectively. From February 20 to 22, when the cases crossed 300-mark, nearly 19,000 tests each were conducted on February 20 and 21, while the testing touched another low on February 22 with just 15,529 tests conducted that day.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, nodal officer, Covid-19, Punjab, said that fresh orders have been issued to the civil surgeons across the state to ramp up testing and meet target of 30,000 tests a day.

“Civil surgeons have been issued fresh orders to maintain Covid testing at 1,000/million population, and to trace and test at least 20 contacts of positive cases. They have also been ordered to ensure strict compliance of Covid appropriate behavior such as social distancing and wearing of masks, hand sanitisers and respiratory etiquette among people and washing of hands with soap and water,” said Dr Bhaskar.

Admitting that Punjab’s testing targets could not be met and the testing in the state plummeted drastically since past some days, Dr G B Singh, Director (Health), Punjab, said that Tuesday’s number of just 13,174 tests a day was indeed ‘very low’.

“With the number of fresh cases coming down in past weeks, the sample collection also went down and so did testing. It should not have happened. We have again issued fresh orders to all civil surgeons to ramp up testing and achieve target of 30,000 tests a day. We were tracing 10-15 contacts of a positive person which would now be increased to 20 at least.”

On Tuesday, the maximum 101 fresh cases were reported from SBS Nagar, 81 from Ludhiana and 48 from Amritsar. Ten more persons have died due to Covid-19 taking toll in Punjab to 5,779.

SBS Nagar (Nawanshahr) continues to be the district with maximum active cases (595), followed by Ludhiana (445) and SAS Nagar (421). Total active cases in Punjab currently are 3,295.

Reopening of schools and casual approach in wearing masks are being cited as main two reasons behind Covid surge in Punjab.

Earlier in the day, the central government said there is no direct relation between the recent surge in Covid-19 cases in some states, includinfg Punjab, and the mutant virus strains — N440K and E484Q — of SARS-CoV-2.

The Health Ministry will be sending teams to some states which have shown a surge in cases recently, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said.

These central teams analyse the reasons for spike in cases and then hold discussions with the chief secretary and health secretary of the visited states to share their findings and advise on the steps to be taken to contain this surge.

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