CHANDIGARH: As many as 26,000 people residing in 24 villages in Punjab have been home-quarantined. The reason: Out of the total of 38 positive cases so far in Punjab, 28 are directly linked to one super spreader - 70-year-old Baldev Singh, the only patient to die of COVID-19 in the state.
Baldev Singh of Pathlawa village of Nawanshahr district, who was granthi (preacher) of the village gurdwara, travelled to Germany and Italy for religious congregations along with his two men from his neighbouring village. They returned to India on March 7. Subsequently, Singh died at the civil hospital in Banga after testing positive for COVID-19 on March 18.
As of now, 14 members of Singh’s family (three sons, daughter, daughter-in-law and six grandchildren) have tested positive. The families members of other two men who travelled with Singh, have also tested positive. Thus, out of 38 positive cases in the state, 28 are directly related him.
Though the three men were advised to isolate themselves upon their return from abroad, they roamed freely. Singh even attended the Hola Mohalla festival at Anandpur Sahib from March 10 to 12 which was attended by about 20 lakh pilgrims this year. He also visited people’s homes to offer sermons.
In all, 18 villages in Nawanshahr district and six villages Hoshiarpur district have been sealed.
"Now the authorities are making announcements across these villages asking people to tell about those people who have contacted these people. We fear the numbers could be in several hundreds," an official said.
Deputy Commissioner of Nawanshahr Nagar Vinay Bublani said: "We sealed the villages one by one and for supply essential commodities, water and electricity supply we are following the protocols. The NRIs residing in these villages have also been quarantined. The teams of health deparment along with other staff are visiting them everyday to check their health conditions."
Sub Divisional Magistrate of Banga in SBS Nagar district of Punjab, Gautam Jain said, "As per the health protocols, we have sealed the fifteen villages in my area for a period of two weeks no one is allowed to go in or out. The essential commodities are being supplied. As per the data the total population of these villages is somewhere around 20,000." Sources pointed out that in the rest three villages are in SBS Nagar subdivision of the district with a population of around 5,000.
While Sonu of Jikha village (which is sealed) says, "we are all confined to our homes now. But, before the sealing people were roaming normally and now all of them are scared."
An official of Hoshiarpur district said that the six villages which have been sealed have around 1200 people who belonged to 250 families. "Some 700 people who were in close contact with Singh are among the total number of quarantined people. About 333 swab samples of symptomatic people have been taken for test from these villages so far," said a health official.