Punjab to resume OPD service in hospitals, open government schools from Monday

With experts warning of possibility of a second wave in the festival season or during winter months, the CM directed concerned departments to take all steps to ensure that things remain under control

Punjab to resume OPD service in hospitals, open government schools from Monday

Bipin Bhardwaj

The Punjab government has decided to resume OPD service in hospitals and open government schools across the state from Monday.

With COVID-19 cases showing a marked decline in the state, Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh on Thursday ordered resumption of normal OPD service and elective surgeries, with extensive precautions in place, but warned against any complacency, given the projections of a possible second wave of the pandemic.

The Chief Minister also allowed opening of government schools after due sanitation and disinfection procedures, and with clear SOPs mandating parents’ consent, as well as a ceiling on the number of students and hours of operation.

Some of the private schools in the state have opened today.

Expressing concern over the warnings by health and medical experts of the grave possibility of a second wave hitting the state in the festival season or during the winter months, the Chief Minister directed the concerned departments to take all steps to ensure that things remain under control. He asked the Health and Medical Education departments to work with the market committees to ensure widespread distribution of masks with steps to encourage people to wear them, and also follow social distancing norms.

While chairing a virtual review meeting of the COVID-19 situation, he also asked the departments to ensure that the medical staff is kept motivated and all vacancies of technicians etc are filled up immediately so that normal OPD services and elective surgeries can be carried out seamlessly amid the pandemic situation. Secretaries of the Health and Medical Research Departments briefed the Chief Minister on the steps being taken to ensure full precautions in OPDs, wards and operation theatres as per SoPs and guidelines for infection prevention and control.

State DGP Dinkar Gupta said the Punjab Police was gearing up to manage the festival season, during which security would be beefed up and all efforts would be made to ensure strict adherence to COVID-19 norms at marketplaces, Ram Lilas etc. The DGP said the police was also currently focused on handling the increasing number of farmer protests, as well as picketing by BJP and RSS.

The DGP informed that the force had lost 22 personnel to COVID-19 in September, taking the toll to 39. As of date, 434 cops were positive, with an average of 72 cases being reported among the Punjab Police every day during September. However, the figure was now down to about 10.

Dr KK Talwar, head of the state government’s expert advisory committee on health, warned of a second wave hitting Punjab during the festival season. With just above 500 cases a day at present, the projections for the next few days were positive, he said, but added that with the spate of upcoming festivals and the fatigue in the health system, Punjab could see a next wave hitting soon.

Citing the incidence of a second wave in various countries, and even in Delhi, Dr. Talwar said Punjab should learn lessons from their experience and prepare accordingly. Dr Rajesh Kumar, a member of the Health Department’s COVID-19 Expert group, said that even if the situation remained under control through November, the onset of the winter season could trigger a spurt in cases.

Dr Talwar suggested giving pulse oxymeters to Asha workers to enable them to keep a check on the disease in their respective areas. He further disclosed that teams of experts were being formed to conduct a mortality audit of every hospital to identify gaps, since the fatality rate in the state continued to be high (at 3.1%). This is despite the fact that the recovery rate has gone up from 82% on October 1 to 90.3% as of October 13, when the total number of confirmed cases in the state stood at 123211.

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