Be it tests per million population, patient recovery rate, case fatality rate or overall health infrastructure availability, Punjab figures far below its neighbour Haryana in the fight against COVID-19.

Even the Union Health Ministry, in its presentation given Monday during the video-conference of PM Narendra Modi with the Chief Ministers, highlighted several parameters on which Punjab fares poorly as compared to other states.

Till April 27, with 524 tests per million population and 5.76 per cent of case fatality rate, Punjab is far behind Haryana that has 907 tests per million and a case fatality rate of 0.99 per cent. Similarly, as on April 27, while the patient recovery rate of Haryana is over 70 per cent, Punjab’s recovery rate is barely 29.7 per cent.

The Union Health Ministry Monday said that there was an urgent need to build ICU bed capacity in the country.

According to the details shared by the ministry, there are at least 47 districts in nine states and one Union Territory in the country that have recorded COVID-19 cases, but still have “zero ICU beds”.

These include 19 districts in Uttar Pradesh, 11 in Madhya Pradesh, 10 in Bihar, three in Assam and one each in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

The districts of Mansa in Punjab and Hamirpur in Himachal Pradesh figure among the “lowest performing districts” among these 47 districts of the country in terms of ICU beds.

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Besides these, there are those that although have no COVID-19 cases, but figure among the places in the country that has zero ICU beds. These include at least 20 districts in Madhya Pradesh, 19 in Bihar, 15 in Uttar Pradesh, 13 in Assam, seven in Odisha, six in Arunachal Pradesh, four in Punjab, three in Mizoram, one in Himachal Pradesh and two in Andaman and Nicobar Islands. As on Tuesday, out of total 22 districts in Punjab, there was no COVID 19 case from the two districts Bathinda and Fazilka.

So while Punjab has total five districts with “zero ICU beds”, there is no such district in Haryana which does not have an ICU bed.

At least 14.5 per cent (3,328) of 23,029 COVID-19 patients, as on April 23, across the country were hospitalised for more than 14 days. The ministry’s presentation added that, as on April 23, Punjab’s at least 20.7 per cent patients (57) of the total cases were hospitalised for more than 14 days. In this category, Punjab’s three districts SAS Nagar (34), Mansa (9) and Amritsar (8) figure among the “lowest performing districts”.

According to the Health Ministry presentation, as on April 23, the other states with large number of patients hospitalised for more than 14 days included Delhi (808, 36.9%), Tamil Nadu (627, 37.2%), Maharashtra (459, 7.1%), Telangana (328, 33.0%), Punjab (57, 20.7%), Andhra Pradesh (191, 20.1%), J&K (80, 18.4%), Uttar Pradesh (252, 17.2%), Madhya Pradesh (180, 10.3%), and Rajasthan (120, 6.1%).

In Haryana, as on date, there is not a single case that has in hospital for over 14 date.

Punjab’s Ludhiana – with 25 per cent fatality rate (4/16), figures among the 10 districts in the country with high fatality percentage. Although Punjab’s tests per million population average was 350 on April 23, the Union Ministry placed its two districts SBS Nagar (189) and SAS Nagar (277) among the lowest performing districts in terms of tests per million population, as on April 23.

However, Punjab has ramped up its testing in the last four days and increased it to over 524 per million by April 27 evening.

Asked about relatively lower number of testing for coronavirus in the state as compared to national average and other states, Punjab Special Chief Secretary K B S Sidhu said, “In Punjab, we did not go in for indiscriminate testing.

We started with very-very specific testing as per protocol that focused on persons with foreign travel history, those having symptoms, primary contacts of persons tested positive and frontline health workers. We followed that original protocol. The testing numbers look less once you go to a high-risk group. It was not random and indiscriminate in the state. It shows our effectiveness. Apart from NRIs and those with foreign travel history, another focus was members of Tablighi Jamaat. Then we followed cluster approach where suspected persons in pockets like Nayagaon, Jagatpura, Jawaharpur in Mohali district and some localities in Jalandhar and Ludhiana and Amritsar were tested”.

On less recovery rate and higher fatality rate as compared to Haryana, Sidhu added, “Right now, it is too early to make comparison. Of the active coronavirus positive cases in Punjab, majority of them are doing well and when they will be discharged, survival rate in Punjab will go up and death rate will come down. It is just a matter of time, four to five days. There is no serious patient in the State who is on ventilator”.

Punjab has three government testing facilities at Patiala, Amritsar and Faridkot with a daily testing capacity of 400, 400 and 250, respectively. In addition, there are two private testing facilities, one in Ludhiana and other in Amritsar. Punjab Medical Education and Research Minister O P Soni Sunday said that the testing capacity in the three facilities would be soon enhanced to 1,400 tests each at Patiala and Amritsar, and 1,000 at Faridkot. This, he said, will take the total number of tests per day to 3,800 which would be an increase of nearly four times from the existing testing capacity of 1,050 in government facilities of the state.

Till Monday, 15,516 samples of suspected coronavirus cases from Punjab were tested in testing facilities in the state and outside, out of which 330 have tested positive, 12,333 tested negative and results of 2,853 were awaited. Punjab has reported 19 deaths due to COVID-19. There were 213 active cases till Monday and 98 patients had recovered.

Haryana, on the other hand, is also going for a screening of each and every household of the state. Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar, Monday said, “We are testing 3,115 samples every day. Out of the total 22,243 tests conducted till date, only 299 have been found positive. After treatment, 205 patients have recovered and discharged from the hospitals. Target of conducting a screening of 100 percent families of the state is being carefully carried out. A total of 20,792 teams comprising health department workers, Asha workers, Anganwadi workers etc have been formed for this purpose”.

Around 5,000 industries/factories became operational after April 20 in Haryana following the relaxation for the industrial activity in non-containment zones. In Punjab, around 3,000 units, only a little over one per cent of the total of more than 2.52 lakh industrial units, have resumed operations as majority of the units in Punjab find the riders attached to relaxation of curbs too strict.

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