CHANDIGARH: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on 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.
Singh made these suggestions in a letter written to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, immediately after the PM held a video conference with chief ministers of all states to review the COVID and vaccination situation, a Punjab government statement said here.
During the meeting in which Union Home Minister Amit Shah was also present, Singh apprised the prime minister of the situation in the state and the steps taken by his government to control and manage the disease.
In recent weeks, Punjab has witnessed a surge in number of coronavirus cases.
Singh 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, 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.
Singh 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.
Singh 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.
Meanwhile, a two-member central team deputed by the Health Ministry reached here on Thursday to support the district administration in managing the new surge of coronavirus cases.
The team expressed complete satisfaction over COVID management and execution of the inoculation drive in Ludhiana, a state government statement said.
The team held a meeting with the district administration officials in Bachat Bhawan and later took stock of the vaccination drive by visiting two camps organised in the Civil Hospital and the United Cycle Parts and Manufacturers Association (UCPMA).
The team members also inspected the Integrated Disease Surveillance Programme Lab in the civil hospital and interacted with the staff there.
It supervised a micro-containment zone to assess the arrangements for restricting the movements, according to the statement.
The team comprises National Centre for Disease Control Deputy Director Anubhav Srivastava and Kavita Chaudhary from RML Hospital in Delhi.
They met Deputy Commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma and convened a meeting attended by Additional Deputy Commissioner Sandeep Kumar, Civil Surgeon Sukhjeevan Kakkar and others, it said.
A small presentation was also given in the meeting regarding the present status of coronavirus cases, effective mechanism and initiatives taken to curb the rising infections, the statement said.
Fifty-six more people succumbed to coronavirus in Punjab on Thursday as 3,119 fresh cases surfaced, pushing the state's infection count to 2,63,090, according to a medical bulletin.
So far, the infection has killed 7,334 in the state.
The number of active cases also rose from 25,855 to 26,389.
Mohali on Thursday recorded the maximum 456 cases, followed by 425 in Ludhiana, 419 in Jalandhar, 354 in Patiala and 317 in Amritsar.
Among the fresh deaths, 12 were reported from Hoshiarpur, eight in Jalandhar, seven in Amritsar and six in Patiala, according to the bulletin.
A total of 2,480 coronavirus patients were discharged after recovering from the infection, taking the number of cured people to 2,29,367, the bulletin said.
There are 24 critical patients who are on ventilator while 386 are on oxygen support.
A total of 62,35,386 samples have been collected for testing so far in the state, it said.
Meanwhile, Chandigarh reported 324 cases of infection, taking the tally to 29,521 in the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana.
The death of a 70-year-old man took the toll to 389, according to a medical bulletin.
The number of active cases stood at 3,115.
A total of 329 patients were discharged after they recovered from the infection, taking the number of cured people to 26,017.
A total of 3,31,288 samples have been taken for testing so far, of which 3,00,725 tested negative while reports of 103 samples are awaited, the bulletin added.