Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Thursday announced the extension of the restrictions in the state till June 10 but ordered the limit on the number of passengers in personal vehicles to be removed in view of the decline in the positivity and number of active Covid-19 cases.
The Chief Minister also directed the resumption of elective surgeries in both government and private hospitals, as well restoration of OPD operations at all government hospitals in the state in view of the improvement in the overall Covid situation.
The elective surgeries were stopped from April 12 to ensure adequate availability of beds and oxygen for serious Covid cases, but the Chief Minister has now allowed these to be resumed, subject to the condition that there shall, for the present, be no reduction in beds for L3 patients in the hospital.
Medical Education Minister O.P. Soni said three government medical colleges have already started 50 percent OPD operations, which will soon be scaled up to 100 percent.
On the issue of restrictions, the Chief Minister said it had been decided to continue with the curbs on the advice of experts. He clarified that while the limit on personal cars and two-wheelers was being removed as these are used mainly by family members and close friends, those on commercial passenger vehicles and taxis shall continue to be in place at present.
The Deputy Commissioners will also continue to be empowered to make any adjustments in the opening of non-essential shops as are merited by local conditions, he said.
Asserting that the state could not afford to be lax despite some easing of the situation, the Chief Minister directed the Health and Medical Education Departments to continue strengthening the Covid care infrastructure and facilities to deal with a possible third wave of the pandemic.
He asked them to invest also in augmenting pediatric care and to seek 500 pediatric ventilators from the government of India. The meeting was informed all 809 ventilators received earlier under the PM Cares Fund had been distributed and 136 of them were not working.
The Chief Minister also ordered the creation of more technical and specialists posts to meet the demands of the possible third wave.
Dr. Raj Bahadur informed the meeting that the recruitment of doctors and nurses had been almost completed, while the process for procurement of equipment for the makeshift hospitals had also started.
Taking strong note of overcharging by some private hospitals, the Chief Minister warned that profiteering and fleecing of patients amid such a crisis will not be allowed at any cost.
He directed the Health and Medical Education Departments to ensure that hospitals display huge boards at the entrance displaying rates.
Reviewing the Covid situation with top health experts and officials, as well as police and administrative officers, Amarinder Singh directed close and continuous monitoring of high-risk individuals and pregnant women in home isolation through special teams.
Given the comfortable Oxygen situation in the state currently, the Chief Minister also directed that oxygen may now be allowed to be used for essential non-medical purposes, with a three-day buffer stock of medical oxygen, however, to be maintained at all times.
He noted with satisfaction that oxygen concentrator banks were now present in every district for post-Covid care patients who have a doctor’s prescription.
The Chief Minister also ordered ramping up of testing and sampling in the rural areas to ensure early identification and treatment of infected persons, as part of the ‘Corona Mukt Pendu Abhiyan’.
He expressed satisfaction that almost 1.4 crore individuals (37 lakh households) had already been screened in these areas.
Health minister Balbir Sidhu said the situation in the rural areas was bad mainly because people were going to hospitals late.
Health Secretary Hassan Lal said the positivity rate in rural areas was four percent with people there shying from testing and coming forward only when faced with severe symptoms.