Punjab: Schools, colleges shut till April 10; CM orders to ramp up COVID vaccination drive

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Chandigarh, Mar 30 (PTI) The Punjab government on Tuesday extended restrictions to tackle coronavirus with schools and colleges to remain shut for another 10 days.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also ordered to ramp up testing and coronavirus vaccination drive with officials informing him that a fall in daily cases is expected only by mid-May.

The CM also directed officials to identify places to set up mobile vaccination centres, according to a statement.

On March 19, the state government had ordered the closure of educational institutes besides imposing gathering restrictions at cinema halls, malls and social events till the month-end.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday ordered that all restrictions that are in place till March 31, will now remain in force till April 10, according to the statement.

Earlier, the state government had ordered that not more than 100 people should be allowed at malls at any time while the cinema halls were told to keep the numbers at 50 per cent of their total capacity.

In the 11 worst-hit districts, a complete ban was ordered on all social gatherings, except for funerals and weddings, in which only 20 people were allowed.

The CM on Tuesday directed the Health Department to increase the number of vaccination sites to target the priority categories.

Expressing concern over the situation, Amarinder Singh asked Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to issue the necessary directions for carrying out testing and vaccination in busy market areas along with other crowded places.

He asked all deputy commissioners and civil surgeons to identify places where mobile vaccination centres can be created, the statement said.

He directed pooling of resources available in districts with high number of cases for effective management of the pandemic and uptake of the vaccination.

A recent survey had shown the UK strain of the virus to be the most prevalent in the state.

While 326 of the 401 coronavirus positive samples sent initially to the NCDC (National Centre for Disease Control) for genome sequencing were found positive for the UK variant, of the 95 samples sent to the IGIB (Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi), 85 samples were found to be positive for the same.

The CM was told at the review meeting that positive cases and deaths are rising rapidly in some of the districts and projections presented by the CMC, Ludhiana, showing infection numbers to peak around April 6.

The numbers will be decreasing by mid or late May as per the estimates with Jalandhar, Ludhiana, Patiala, Sahibzada Ajit Singh Nagar, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala expected to contribute more cases.

Positivity rate is likely to be high in those below 40, the officials said citing the projections.

There is a need to increase the bed availability in some of the private hospitals treating critically ill patients, the chief minister stressed.

Strict monitoring of patients in home isolation should be done, the CM said, adding that they should be transferred to the appropriate level of healthcare facilities if need be.

The CM asked all DCs and civil surgeons to ensure that no death occurs in a Level-2 facility and there is early shifting of a patient to a Level-3 facility once it is established that the patient needs critical care. On the vaccination front, the CM directed that any photo ID shall be sufficient to approve the vaccination of eligible beneficiaries.

Punjab on Monday had seen 2,914 more COVID-19 cases and 59 deaths. PTI CHS VSD RDK RDK