Punjab will initiated the 3rd Sentinel sero-surveillance survey, especially focused on children in the age group of 6- 17 years, this month, ahead of the imminent third wave, for which Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced Rs 331 crore in addition to the money already allotted for Emergency COVID Response.

With this, Punjab will become the only state in the country to get a children-dominated sero survey conducted to assess the prevalence of the infection among under-18s. The Chief Minister also ordered establishment of a paediatric unit in each District and one Centre of Excellence in Paediatrics for the State.

The government, he further announced, will also establish LMO storage tanks in every district to ensure 24X7 availability of medical grade oxygen. Medical gas pipeline systems will also be set up at each District, Sub-division and CHC level, he disclosed, also announcing the establishment of 17 additional RTPCR labs that shall be established. ICU beds in Government Hospitals shall also be increased to 142, and a hub & scope model for telemedicine and teleconsultation shall also be established, said Captain Amarinder.

The Chief Minister said the outcomes of the 3rd Sentinel sero-surveillance survey will be utilised to determine further localised restrictions as the state prepares for the third wave. GIS based surveillance and prevention tools will be used with an auto trigger mechanism for localised restrictions, he disclosed.

Dr KK Talwar disclosed, in response to a query from the Chief Minister, that in the first and second wave, 10% of those infected were under 18, and while there was no concrete data to support such a projection, the state was preparing to handle more cases of children in the third wave.

Health Secretary Hussan Lal apprised the Chief Minister that the process of modifications in COVA had started for capturing of required parameters, linked to sample collection and reporting system outside ICMR system. The same was likely to be functional in a week.

The Chief Minister asked the Health Department to expedite recruitments for all posts for which Cabinet approval has already been taken. He noted that advertisement for 481 Specialists had already been issued by the Health Department for walk-in interviews on 31st July. The Medical Education and Research Department has also begun the process of filling up its vacancies in the coming month, he added.

Captain Amarinder expressed satisfaction over the strategy for preparation of the third wave, pointing out that testing has been maintained at around 40,000- 45,000 a day, with special focus on high density areas and vulnerable population. Contact tracing has also been maintained at 18 per positive patient. 

He said he was happy to note that data cells have been activated in each District. The newly recruited Community Medicine Specialists posted in each District must be immediately given charge of these Data Cells, he ordered.

The Chief Minister directed that the Whole Genome Sequencing (WGS) Lab at GMCH Patiala, coming up with the support of PATH, should become functional this month. The equipment was likely to be received by 25th July and operations were expected to commence by the end of the month, he was informed. The meeting was further informed that the concerned Staff from VRDL Patiala has gone to NEERI, Nasik for hands on training for 3 days for WGS testing.

Also Read: Punjab CM orders reopening of schools for classes 10,11,12 from July 26

Health Minister Balbir Sidhu and Medical Education & Research Minister OP Soni briefed the Chief Minister on the situation in hospitals etc.

Dr KK Talwar informed the meeting that Punjab was currently in a comfortable situation though the fear of a third wave continued, with ICMR predicting it by end of August or start of September. The situation may not be as bad as in the second wave unless a new variant comes before that, he noted. He, however, stressed the need for extreme caution with crowds building up even as cases were on the rise in some states.

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