Amid surge in COVID cases and 50% revenue decline for the first quarter of this fiscal in Punjab, Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday sought from Prime Minister Narendra Modi a liberal financial package for states to fill the collection gap caused by the pandemic, and also flexibility on COVID-related terms of expenditure in SDRF.
During a Video Conference meeting of the Prime Minister with chief ministers of some states to review the COVID situation, Captain Amarinder said the current cap of 35% in State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) for COVID related expenditure, as per MHA guidelines, is not sufficient to meet the current requirements. Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Health Minister Dr. Harsh Vardhan also participated in the meeting.
The Chief Minister thanked the Government for India for accepting Punjab’s proposal to set up a National Institute of Virology for the North Zone and said the state government will soon give 25 acres of land for the Institute for ICMR for the purpose.
Citing the state’s rising cases of Covid , which have gone up to 24891 with 604 deaths, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to review the UGC decision on mandatory exams for exit classes to be held by September 30. Punjab may not be in a position to conduct exams in September as it may be facing its peak at that time, he said, suggesting promoting these students promoted on past performance and internal assessment, with option to take exams later for those wanting to improve their performance. He also sought central government assistance for online school education, especially for poor children of Classes X and XII. More money was needed for creating the infrastructure needed to support online education, he added.
Though Punjab was conducting 23,000 tests per million for Covid (higher than the national average), and planned to increase RT-PCR tests from 12000 to 20000 in the next 15 days, it needed to scale up the testing capacity further, the Chief Minister stressed. He requested the Prime Minister to direct Government of India institutions in Chandigarh & Punjab to increase testing capacity, as already written to him earlier.
Expressing concern over the state’s mortality rate of 2.4%, Captain Amarinder said though it was lower than the all India deaths per million and 91% of the fatality cases were with co-morbidity, it was still higher than neighbouring Haryana. Patients were coming to hospitals late and 86% deaths were occurring in tertiary hospitals, he added.
Captain Amarinder also requested immediate operationalization of COVID testing and treatment at AIIMS Bathinda, where OPDs are already functional and said this will be useful for the people of southern Punjab. Noting that PGI Chandigarh is a premier tertiary care facility for Punjab, he also sought an increase in the bed capacity at the hospital and strengthening of the existing PGI Satellite Centre at Sangrur, especially for COVID treatment. The Chief Minister further urged the Centre for immediate commencement of work on the newly sanctioned PGI Satellite Centre at Ferozepur.
While of the three already sanctioned need medical colleges, Mohali Medical College will start classes this year, more such institutions were needed, said the Chief Minister, requesting for new colleges in the aspirational districts of Gurdaspur, Sangrur/ Malerkotla, as well as Moga. COVID has shown that we need to strengthen public facilities in health, he added.
Giving an update on the Covid situation in the state, Captain Amarinder Singh said it had seen cases go up from 500 to 1000 in 2 weeks, with positivity rate of the last 5 days at 8.73%. The majority of cases were coming from Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala cities, though cases were increasing in all districts, he added. The number of micro-containment zones were being increased in high incidence districts like Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar, he said.
To augment its fight against COVID, the state has opened two Plasma Banks (in Patiala and Amritsar), with another set to open soon at GMC Faridkot, the Chief Minister informed the meeting.