Punjab doing more tests per million than national average: CM

Chandigarh: Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh moves a resolution in the state assembly condemning suicide attack on CRPF convoy in Jammu and Kashmir’s Pulwama; in Chandigarh on Feb 15, 2019. (Photo: IANS)

Chandigarh, March 31 (IANS) Taking exception to the Centre’s criticism of his government’s management of the Covid-19 surge, Punjab Chief Minister 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 opening up of vaccination for 45-plus group not been delayed.

Had the Central government acceded the state’s request to allow vaccination of all 50 plus category population earlier, instead of delaying the decision to include 45 plus age population by almost two months, he said.

Reacting to the Centre’s allegation that the state was not doing enough testing and isolating affected people, Amarinder Singh noted that his government had put severe restrictions on social gatherings and closed all educational institutions, with night curfews imposed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. in severely affected 11 districts.

He observed the state had been repeatedly requesting the Centre in writing, as well as in meetings attended by the Chief Secretary, that the current strategy of immunisation 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 immunisation for school and college students and teachers, judges, bus drivers and conductors, etc, everywhere.

Amarinder Singh 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 (the UK variant) and two samples positive for N440K).

The implication of presence of the UK variant needs to be looked into and appropriate advice is required to be shared with the state, he urged the Centre.

Citing the factual position on the testing front, Amarinder Singh said during the first peak, which happened in September 2020, the positivity rate was around 10 per cent and the state was testing 30,000 Covid samples per day. Now, when the positivity is over seven per cent, the state is testing around 40,000 samples per day.

The state is consistently testing around 90 per cent RT-PCR and about 10 per cent rapid antigen tests, and its per million testing figure is 196,667 while the national average is 182,296, he said.

The state had very limited capacity of testing by RT-PCR when the 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, he added.

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