Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Thursday urged the Centre to give flexibility to states to devise local strategies for Covid-19 vaccination within the broad parameters of the central government’s approach. He also sought a review of norms in order to allow all adults in high-risk areas to be immunized, along with people below the age of 45 suffering from liver and kidney diseases.
Amarinder made the suggestions in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, immediately after the latter held a video conference with chief ministers of all states to review the Covid and vaccination situation, a state government statement said.
During the meeting in which Union Home Minister Amit Shah was also present, Amarinder apprised the PM of the situation in the state and the steps taken by his government to control and manage the disease.
Amarinder stressed that the UK variant of coronavirus, which is dominating the second wave in the state, is reported by experts to be more virulent and affecting the youth disproportionately.
In his subsequent letter, the CM Singh said his suggestions, some of which were submitted on March 17 to the PM and the Union health minister, were based on the state government’s interaction with independent experts. The statement said that amid reports of some states facing vaccine shortages, Singh also requested the Ministry of Health to share the schedule for supply of vaccines with the states over the next quarter based on their confirmed supply orders.
Given that over 80 per cent positive cases found in Punjab are of the UK variant, according to early reports from central laboratories, he also sought strengthening of viral sequencing in the state which has been reporting around 3,000 cases per day since the last 15 days, with around 8 per cent positivity.
The state currently has around 26,000 active cases with a recovery rate of 87.3 per cent, with 50-60 deaths a day at around 2 per cent Case Fatality Rate (CFR), the statement said.
The chief minister reiterated his earlier request for vaccinating teachers and staff in all educational institutions to enable resumption of physical classes once the surge abates.
He also batted for occupation-based immunisation for judges and judicial officers, bus drivers and conductors, elected representatives at all levels, etc.
Amarinder apprised the meeting that the primary driver of the spread appeared to be fatigue and laxity in following Covid-appropriate behavior, large political, social and religious gatherings, and efforts at normalization such as opening of schools and colleges. High positivity was being seen in younger population, he pointed out.
The chief minister urged Modi to direct central institutions like IISER, IMTECH, AIIMS, Bathinda, and PGIMER, Chandigarh, to increase the RT-PCR testing from Punjab. Further, PGIMER, Chandigarh, should be asked to earmark at least 50 Covid ICU beds for patients being referred by the state, he added.
Currently, 55 per cent health care workers and around 90 per cent front line workers have got the first dose of vaccine, Singh told the prime minister during the virtual meeting, while disclosing that more than 8.9 lakh persons aged 45 above have taken first dose of vaccination.
Daily vaccinations have increased from 20,000 per day in mid-March to around 85,000-90,000 per day, with maximum of 1.32 lakh vaccinations on April 3. “We are targeting around 2 lakh per day by the end of this month,” he said.
An extensive social media campaign is being undertaken to address the misinformation regarding Covid and vaccination hesitancy, he informed Modi, adding that all public healthcare facilities upto Primary Health Centre have started working as vaccination centres, making it available to the public in their vicinity.
All public health facilities have started vaccination on 7 days of the week, while more private healthcare facilities are being motivated to work as Covid vaccination centres, he added.
The CM also shared the overall testing figures for the state and detailed treatment facilities, while touching upon the measures taken by his government to check the spread of Covid including closure of educational institutions and anganwadi centres.