Chandigarh, March 31: Taking strong exception to the Centre’s criticism of his government’s management of the Covid surge, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Wednesday said not only was the state consistently doing more tests per million than the national average, but the situation would perhaps have been better had the Government of India not delayed opening up of vaccination for 45+ age group.

Had the central government acceded the state’s request for allowing vaccination of all 50+ category population earlier, instead of delaying the decision to include 45+ age population by almost two months, the situation would perhaps have been better than present, he said.

He was reacting to the Government of India’s allegation that the State Government was not doing enough CoViD testing and isolating affected people. 

The Chief Minister pointed out that his government had put severe restrictions on social gatherings and closed all educational institutions, with night curfews imposed from 9 pm to 5 am in severely affected 11 districts.  

He further observed that the state government had been repeatedly requesting GoI in writing, as well as in meetings attended by the Chief Secretary, that the current strategy of immunization needs review. Vaccination in a campaign that covers all age groups in selected areas will lead to better outcomes than the periodic cycles of vaccination targeting a small section of the population at each cycle, he stressed, underlining the need for such approach in any area where weekly testing shows a doubling of positivity rate. 

He reiterated his demand for permission for occupation-based immunization for school and college students and Teachers, Judges, Bus drivers and Conductors, Panches/ Sarpanches, Mayors/ Municipal Committee, Presidents/ Counsellors, MLAs, MPs etc. everywhere. 

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Captain Amarinder also took note of the delay in receiving reports of genome sequencing. Of the 874 samples sent, only 588 reports had been received so far, of which 411 samples  were found positive for B.1.1.7 (UK Variant and 2 samples positive for N440K. The implication of presence of UK variant mutant needs to be looked into and appropriate advice is required to be shared with the State, the Chief Minister urged the Centre. 

Citing the factual position on the testing front, Captain Amarinder noted that during the first peak, which happened in September 2020, the positivity rate was around 10 and the state was testing 30,000 CoViD samples per day. Now, when the positivity is over 7%, the state is testing around 40,000 CoViD samples per day. The State is consistently testing around 90% RT-PCR and about 10% RAT, and its per million testing is 1,96,667 while the national average is 1,82,296, he pointed out. 

The State had very limited capacity of testing RT-PCR when this pandemic started.  It was about 40 samples per day and within a very short span of time, the state ramped up its own RT-PCR testing capacity to more than 25,000 tests per day.  The state is consistently utilizing its optimal RT-PCR capacity. The GoI institutions like IISER, IMTech, PGIMER are supporting the state to the extent of only about 100 samples per day, said the Chief Minister, adding that the stat can increase RAT testing to any level if there is need to do so. 

Further, he pointed out that during the first peak in September 2020, Punjab had increased contact tracing to 10 contacts per positive case.  Now, during the second peak, “we are tracing more than 15 contacts per positive case,” he added.

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