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Chandigarh, (Gurpreet) : To incentivise villages to give up vaccine hesitancy, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday announced a special development grant of Rs.10 lakh to every village that achieves 100% vaccination target under the state government’s 'Corona Mukt Pind Abhiyan'.

Appealing to Sarpanches and Panches across the state to lead their villages in the fight against Covid, the Chief Minister urged them to motivate the people to undergo testing even in case of mild symptoms, and to get themselves vaccinated.

He was interacting virtually with village Panchayats represented by more than 2000 heads/members across over 4000 live locations in the rural parts of the state through LED screens. He informed them that his Government had already sanctioned permission for Sarpanches to utilize upto Rs.5000 per day from Panchayat funds for emergency Covid treatment, upto a maximum of Rs.50,000.

Underlining the need to sensitize the rural population about the harmful effects of corona and the importance of early detection and treatment to save precious lives, the Chief Minister said this could only be done through special awareness campaigns. He asked the Panchayats to organize special medical camps, and to rope in the services of ex-servicemen, who had fought several wars during their active service career and were now part of the state’s fight against the pandemic.

He asked the Sarpaches and Panches to start 'theekri pehra' in their villages to prevent infected persons from coming in, and also distribute Fateh Kits to every person who tests positive, besides ensuring proper treatment in case oxygen saturation level goes below 94%. He also urged the people living in villages to immediately quarantine themselves in case of any symptoms, and get themselves tested to ensure early detection of the infection. Any laxity or complacency on their part could lead to severe complications at the later stage, which often has fatal results, said Captain Amarinder. Pointing out that Punjab has an extensive healthcare network with 2046 health and wellness centres, and another 800 to be made functional soon, he asked the Sarpanches and Panches to avail the healthcare services at these centres for the treatment of villagers infected with corona.

The Chief Minister further said that the State Government was making all-out efforts to procure sufficient stocks of vaccine from various sources for inoculation of 18+ age group, besides constantly pursuing with Centre for more vaccine doses for its population of above 45 years. He said earlier, when the state government had adequate supply of vaccines, the people were not forthcoming for inoculation, but now the trend was reversed, with people coming in huge numbers.

Calling for collective efforts and cooperation among all to check the spread of the virus,’ the Chief Minister said, "I alone can't do anything as a Captain the concerted efforts jointly put in by the team will help us achieve our goal". While the cases had come down from a daily average of around 9000 to 6947 on May 17, the situation continued to be grim, with many people still dying, mainly because they were seeking medical intervention too late to help them. This, he said, was evident from the fact with 64% occupancy of level 2 beds and 85% at level 3. "Had these people sought medical aid at initial stage eventually several precious lives could have been saved," he added.

The Chief Minister exhorted villagers to strictly adhere to the health protocols and guidelines issued by the state government from time to time. He said the state government had set up 24x7 helpline '104' for assistance, with all the home isolation patients being monitored through daily calls by health teams. They were also being given food kits comprising 10 kg Atta, 2 kg Chana, 2 kg sugar for each member of the family, in addition to 10 kg Atta being provided by the Government of India. Food kits to all poor patients, who tested positive, are also being provided as they lose their wages for two weeks or more. Apart from these, he said he had ordered 5 lakh food kits for the poor who are adversely impacted by Covid restrictions. He pointed out that the Punjab Police Bhojan Helpline '112' was also responding to calls round the clock for providing to Covid patients.

Earlier, Rural Development & Panchayats Minister Tript Rajinder Singh Bajwa requested the Panchayat Members to come forward to support the government's endeavour to control the Covid situation, especially in those villages where corona cases were on the rise. He also advised people of villages not to rely on quacks etc but to consult the doctors in the government primary health centres in the rural areas.

Health & Family Welfare Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu said that the health department had already placed an order for 12 lakh kits for Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) to detect the corona cases at the initial stage. He emphasized on the need to further intensify the joint efforts of Guardians of Governance (GoGs), ASHA & Anganwadi workers along with health workers to launch a vigorous door to door campaign for testing in villages.

Advisor to Health Department, Dr. KK Talwar, briefly outlined the action plan to control the spread of Coronavirus in the villages and asked the rural masses to wear mask, observe social distancing especially at gatherings, and avoid unnecessary travel.

Earlier, Sarpanches Sessiondeep Kaur from village Manak Khana in Bathinda district, Surjit Kaur (village Sarangwal, Hoshiarpur), Lakhwant Singh (village Saafuwal, Moga), Gurdeep Kaur (village Khanaura, Patiala) and Kashmir Singh from village Mehta in Amritsar gave their suggestions on further strengthening the existing healthcare infrastructure in the villages. They also apprised the Chief Minister about the steps undertaken by them to ensure compliance with the Covid safety guidelines and making people aware about the significance of vaccination.

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