With Punjab witnessing an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases, health officials on Monday ascribed the upswing to people not adhering to safety guidelines like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing. According to the state health department data, Punjab has recorded daily cases between 200 and 350 for the last several days.
It added almost 5,000 cases in a period of 21 days starting February 1. The number of active cases on February 21 stood at 3,019 as against 2,101 on February 1, an increase of 44 per cent, the data showed. “People are not following COVID-19 safety precautions like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing which is the main reason behind the surge in cases in the state,” said Rajesh Bhaskar, Punjab’s nodal officer for COVID-19.
Officials stressed that people should shed the casual approach. They said some students and teachers testing positive for coronavirus in Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar, Ludhiana and other districts has also contributed to the infection tally.
Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar has the highest number of active cases in the state at 583, according to health department data. When the COVID-19 pandemic first hit the country last year, SBS Nagar had emerged as one of the hotspots. However, later the authorities successfully managed to contain infections.
Punjab Health Director G B Singh said, “We have sent a team of experts to SBS Nagar to see why the cases are on the rise in the district.” The state health department has also sent some samples for genome testing to the Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology, Delhi to check for the possibility of another strain of the virus, he said. Punjab is among five states that have been asked by the Centre to refocus on strict surveillance, containment and RT-PCR testing to check the growing number of cases. The other four states are Maharashtra, Kerala, Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh.
So far, only 79,000 of 2.06 lakh healthcare workers and 4,000 of 1.82 lakh frontline workers have been administered the COVID-19 vaccine in Punjab, showing they are still hesitant to take the vaccine. Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu had on Sunday said healthcare workers who do not get the COVID-19 vaccine would not be allowed quarantine leave if they get infected later.
He had also said that they would have to bear the cost of their treatment. As of Sunday, Punjab’s infection tally stood at 1,78,459 and the death toll at 5,754.