‘Punjab has managed COVID curve, numbers less than projected’

Kanchan Vasdev, Raakhi Jagga

Giving a message to patients not be afraid of isolation wards, Dr Bahadur said: “We are going to play Gurbani in wards for positivity. However, patients are recovering and going home. People need not to feel scared.”

The Vice-Chancellor of Baba Farid University of Health Sciences (BFUHS) and professional adviser to Punjab’s COVID-19 response and procurement committee, Dr Raj Bahadur Singh, believes that curfew imposed in the state by the Amarinder Singh government has helped in containing the spread of the infectious disease.

Talking to the Indian Express, Dr Raj Bahadur said, “We had projected the number of positive cases in Punjab at 114 on April 5. But the actual number on Sunday was 68. This shows we have been able to manage the curve to quite an extent.” He added that the experts were projecting the number of positive cases in Punjab at 521 on April 15.

“But the way we are going, and the trend continues, I do not think it will be more than half this number. I am confident,” he said.

The V-C added that apparently Punjab was still in second stage of transmission. “For instance, I have got one patient in Faridkot. Though he does not have a travel history, but he does not look like a case of community transmission. He had gone to Delhi from where he seems to have picked up the virus.”

About lifting the curfew on April 14, he said: “Governments have many considerations. But we as people have to be sensible enough. Even if the curfew is lifted, we should take it upon ourselves to self-impose a curfew. We should lock ourselves down for at least a week. This will help slowing down the spread further.”

Dr Bahadur said that while August and September have been projected as peak time for coronavirus in Punjab, but the “projected figures are turning out to be contrary to that”.

While he admitted that the state was not doing enough testing right now, he added that the scenario would change once rapid testing takes off in identified hotspots.

“We already have two labs in Amritsar and Patiala. I am setting up more machines in Faridkot. The DMC and CMC in Ludhiana are also getting labs. In any case, the RT tests would also require validation from these labs,” he said.

About the rationale behind using rapid tests when they are not the final word on COVID-19 infection, he said: “Rapid test is a viral antigen test where 2 ml of blood is put on a special strip. This test is done in 15 minutes. At this juncture, as per Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), rapid test should be done in hotspots to find out more persons quickly rather than waiting for the 40-hour test. However, if a person tests positive in rapid test, he/she needs to be quarantined immediately and another test needs to be performed on them as every rapid test positive patient may not be COVID-19 positive. Sometimes, slight traces of infection test you positive in rapid test, if second test (which takes 40 hours) also tests positive, patient needs tertiary care treatment. Otherwise, the patient can be home quarantined.”

Asked if medical colleges across Punjab are equipped enough to tackle the outbreak, he added: “Yes, all the medical colleges are equipped. The COVID management wards are well equipped with staff as well as required N-95 masks, PPE kits. Our medical colleges in Faridkot, Amritsar, Patiala are have adequate facilities as per the patient strength in these hospitals...Already we have ordered 1 lakh PPE kits from ICMR.”

Giving a message to patients not be afraid of isolation wards, Dr Bahadur said: “We are going to play Gurbani in wards for positivity. However, patients are recovering and going home. People need not to feel scared.”