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Chandigarh, (Gurpreet): In a bid to ramp up the state’s Covid battle preparedness further amid the spike in cases, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered increase in testing to 30,000 a day, with at least 10 persons in the immediate circle of every positive patient to be tested.

Reviewing the situation, through Video Conference, with top health and medical experts and officials, the Chief Minister also directed the Health Department to supply ventilators, free of cost, to medical colleges and private hospitals. He further asked the Department to provide manpower, such as anesthetists, to these hospitals, which had witnessed an increase in Covid patients in the wake of cap on treatment rates by the government.

Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan informed the meeting that tenders had been floated for the procurement of nine more RT-PCR machines and the same were expected by next week. She also stressed on increasing rapid antigen testing, as well as augmentation of level 3 bed capacity.

Vini said one private hospital had to stop taking in patients after their anesthetist tested positive, while most others had anesthetists in the vulnerable age group of 55-60 years. The IMA had met the state health minister to discuss the issue, she said, adding that to maintain continuity of Covid treatment and care in private hospitals the anesthetists would need to be replaced with younger ones.

Captain Amarinder agreed, saying “we have to take them on board and extend all help, while being strict in enforcement of the fee cap and other restrictions.”

The Chief Minister thanked the eight recently cured PCS officers who had offered, in writing, to donate their plasma to save other lives.

Dr KK Talwar earlier, in his presentation, pointed out that the last three-four days had witnessed 300+ patients at Level 3, with 48 on ventilators, up from just 27 about 10 days ago. Though deaths per million in Punjab, at 30.8, was lower than India’s 39.9, the situation was grim as 920 people had lost their lives to Covid and the state’s recovery rate at 62.9% was lower than the nation’s 73.9%. The percentage of co-morbid patients was higher in Punjab as compared with Haryana, explaning the greater number of deaths here, he added.

With the four districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar, Patiala and Ludhiana accounting for majority of the 36000 plus cases in the state, contact tracing in these regions needed to be stepped up, he added.

Secretary Health Hussain Lal, in his presentation, said while the number of tests had gone up to nearly 20000, the positivity rate had come down slightly to 8.05% for the week from August 11 to August 18, as against 9.31% from August 3 to August 10.

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