Punjab chief minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Friday backed extending restrictions on movement of people in the state to curb spread of Covid-19 cases, asserting that community transmission appeared to have started in the state.
Addressing a news conference through video-conferencing, Singh said he felt the lockdown and curfew should continue in view of the increased number of positive Covid-19 cases.
“The number of positive Covid-19 cases will increase as is happening across the world and even in India. How can Punjab be isolated from it? We have contained the pandemic to some level as compared to other states. But this will spread. We have kept our contingency plan ready and lockdown is one of the methods to cut social contacts,” he said.
Punjab, which was one of the first states to impose a state-wide lockdown and stop public transport, has reported 132 Covid-19 patients.
“We had around 140,000 NRIs and foreign returnees, including from those countries where the virus had spread. They were the primary ones. Now, with 27 positive cases of secondary transmission we have entered the stage of community transmission. That is a serious cause of worry. That is why we have to seriously consider extending the lockdown,” added Singh.
The chief minister said 651 people have come to the state from the Tablighi Jamaat’s congregations in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, which emerged as the biggest Covid-19 hotspots in the country. Of them, 636 have been traced and 15 remain untraced.
Community transmission is the third of the four stages of the spread of an infectious disease. The first is travel history, the second is local transmission, the third is community transmission, and the fourth is epidemic.
The Union Health Ministry has been consistently denying that India had reached the community transmission stage, insisting that it was still at the local transmission stage.
A new study by the Indian Council of Medical Research and the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), however, found that 1 in 50 people admitted to hospitals with acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia suffer from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
Dr T Jacob John, professor emeritus and former head of virology at the Christian Medical College, Vellore, said: “One may not like to call it community transmission but this is in fact community transmission”.
Dr Shobha Broor, former head of the department of microbiology at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, disagreed, underlining that the case history of the patients had probably not been analysed properly yet.
Punjab, Maharashtra, Delhi and Rajasthan have mandated that people should wear face masks in public places.
Several states in the country have approached the Centre to extend the 21-day lockdown, which is supposed to be in place till April 14, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi is going to take a call Saturday after a meeting with chief ministers.
“Currently, only one patient is on ventilator support and two are on a pre-ventilator stage where they only require oxygen. We have 76 operational ventilators in government hospitals and 358 in private hospitals,” Capt Amarinder Singh added.
He also said 11 people have died due to Covid-19 in the state till date. The number of samples which have been collected stand at 2,877, which he said, is not much for a state which has 28 million people.
The chief minister said 651 people have come to the state from the Tablighi Jamaat’s congregations in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area, which emerged as the biggest Covid-19 hotspots in the country.
“We have traced 636 of them. Fifteen are still untraceable and we are looking for them,” Singh said.
Quoting studies that have projected a spike in Covid-19 cases later in the year, the The chief minister also cited studies including one by Chandigarh’s Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education & Research that project Covid-19 cases could spike by mid-September when 58% of its population would be infected. In Punjab, he said, it had been projected that 87% of the population would be infected by the disease.
“These figures are frightening. Predictions by health experts about the spread of the pandemic are horrendous. So, we have to do what we can and lockdown is one of such measures,” he added.