Harsimrat slams Punjab govt over 'shortcomings' in COVID-19 management

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Chandigarh, Apr 12 (PTI) SAD leader and former union minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal on Monday said the 'widespread shortcomings' in COVID-19 management pointed out by a central team in several districts of Punjab were a 'clear indictment' of Chief Minister Amarinder Singh.

Targeting the Congress dispensation, she said the chief minister had chosen to ban political activities of the opposition instead of doing anything to improve medical infrastructure and healthcare system in the state.

However, Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu dubbed Badal's accusations as “baseless and politically motivated”.

The central team has pointed out that there was a need to enhance focus on contact tracing in Patiala and Ludhiana, and that there was no RT-PCR testing lab in Rupnagar.

It further said contact tracing and surveillance in SAS Nagar are being hampered due to shortage of manpower and additional workforce must be deployed.

Bathinda MP Badal on Monday said the chief minister was directly responsible for the present state of affairs.

'The mortality rate in Punjab was one of the highest in the country because Amarinder Singh had refused to take control of the situation from the very start,” she alleged.

'The CM isolated himself in his farm house and subsequently Punjab witnessed scams in procurement of COVID care items, large scale irregularities in testing, scams in procurement of COVID kits and shortage of ventilators and ambulances. All this resulted in people shunning government facilities and a complete lack of faith in the government efforts to control the spread of the pandemic,' she alleged in a statement here.

'The Punjab government has also been indicted for slow place of COVID vaccination,' she said, referring to the central team report.

Asking the chief minister to take stock of the situation personally and visit the nine worst-affected districts to ensure required changes occurred at the ground level, Badal said it was unfortunate that the Congress government had “failed” to upgrade medical infrastructure in all districts even one year after the onset of the pandemic.

She also asked the chief minister to act on the report immediately and take action against officials responsible for the deficiencies reported by the central team.

'An audit should also be done on the money used to counter the pandemic and misuse of COVID funds should be identified and acted upon,' the Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) leader said.

Meanwhile, Punjab Health Minister Sidhu accused her of trying to “malign” the image of the medical fraternity for getting “free publicity”.

'The Shiromani Akali Dal has lost its credibility and support of the people of Punjab,” he claimed.

The minister, in a statement here, said the state government is working on the advisories issued by the Centre and suitable corrective steps, as required, are being taken.

He said the feedback has been found to be immensely useful and will surely help the state in managing the COVID surge in the state.

Sidhu said contact tracing in Ludhiana is 13 per case, Patiala 14 and while it is 23 at SAS Nagar which is highest in the state.

Contact tracing is being further enhanced by involving personnel from other departments, he said.

On the status of labs, he said RT-PCR labs are not required in every district.

Districts have been attached to seven RT-PCR testing labs with no district more than one or one-and-half hour distance from the testing lab.

Testing in the state has been about 35-40,000 per day which will be increased to 50,000 per day in this week only, said the minister. PTI CHS VSD SNE