A homeless man sleeps under an overbridge near bus stand, in Patiala on Friday. (Express photo/Harmeet Sodhi)
As many as 55,669 international passengers, including NRIs, came to Punjab after visiting different countries from January 30 onwards, a de-duplication exercise by Punjab government has revealed.
Earlier, records accessed by The Indian Express revealed, the number of such international passenger was pegged at 1.06 lakh after districts, on various occasions, were sent the lists of international passengers in a “hap-hazard manner”.
The state Health Department, thereafter, tried to arrange the data in a systematic manner and after de-duplication, the final figure turned out to be 55,669 persons.
On Friday, Punjab Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Satish Chandra shared this revised list with all divisional commissioners, deputy commissioners and all Range Inspector Generals, Commissioners of Police, Deputy Inspector Generals and Senior Superintendents of Police. Chandra has directed them to track/trace these international passengers and quarantine them as per the guidelines of the health department, and get back with their respective action-taken lists.
“The persons under quarantine are to be observed from time to time by the surveillance team and if any quarantined person is found to have symptoms of Corona then the concerned persons be tested immediately,” Chandra directed on Friday.
The Deputy Commissioners have been asked to divide the district in sectors and appoint Sectoral Officers to systematically trace and quarantine these international passengers.
After tracing those still here, the government would put posters of quarantine outside their houses. A government functionary said that Surveillance Officers appointed along with the Sectoral Officers will ensure that quarantined persons remain indoors.
The Deputy Commissioners have been asked to trace the number of passengers who have already gone back from Punjab and update the list with traced persons and remaining persons to be traced, how many of them have been quarantined, how many are yet to be quarantines, how many have tested positive or negative for coronavirus.
As per the latest data, 1605 international passengers belong to Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar (Nawanshahr), from where deceased 70-year-old COVID-19 passenger belonged. He had come to Punjab after visiting Germany and Italy and died due to Covid-19 on March 18.
With 13,723 out of 55,669 international passengers who arrived, Jalandhar tops the list of the districts to which international passengers belonged. 9,950 international passengers arrived in Amritsar district from January 30, followed by 9281 in Ludhiana, 6,211 in Hoshiarpur, 1,990 in Kapurthala, 1,827 in Patiala and 1,813 in Gurdaspur.
Punjab Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said an exercise is on at war footing in more than 20 villages in Doaba region of Punjab to trace NRIs and all international passengers. He said, “Many have gone back. Now, those who came in contact with them have started to test positive. Luckily, tests from other places are coming negative. The entire Malwa is safe as of now.” Sidhu said “30,000 persons” were under quarantine in Punjab.
According to the revised list, Moga got 1,342 international passengers since January 30, SAS Nagar had 1,123, Taran Tarn got 1,071. The districts with the number below 1000 are, Rupnagar (968), Sangrur (818), Bathinda (713), Ferozepur (623), Fatehgarh Sahib (599), Barnala (588), Faridkot (427), Pathankot (282), Muktsar (250), Fazilka (182), Mansa (148). There are 135 in the list with no specified district.
Punjab government is also set to enhance testing capacity at Government Medical Colleges at Patiala and Amritsar.
“We will get one RT-PCR testing machines each at these medical colleges on Saturday in addition to one each already there. We are also trying to get two more such machines each for the two Medical Colleges. In addition, the government has also placed another order of two RNA extraction machines each at Amritsar and Patiala Medical College, which is being done manually currently in the absence of such machines,” said D K Tiwari, Medical Education and Research Principal Secretary.
Tiwari said test reports from Amritsar Medical College would be taken as final and need not to be sent to National Institute of Virology, Pune. Tiwari told that in eight hours, a testing machines tests 40 samples.
“We will also increase the duty shifts and once the other machines come, the capacity would reach 400 each at Amritsar and Patiala Medical Colleges,” said Tiwari.