Amid apprehensions that a third wave of Covid infections may severely affect children, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today announced an allocation of Rs 331 crore for a sero survey focused on the 6-17 years age group.
The allocation for the third sentinel sero-surveillance survey is in addition to the money allocated earlier for emergency Covid response, a government release said.
The Chief Minister said outcomes of the sero survey will be utilised to determine further localised restrictions as the state prepares for the third wave. He added that Geographic Information System-based surveillance and prevention tools will be used with an auto trigger mechanism for implementing local curbs, he disclosed.
Several experts have argued that there is no evidence so far that a third wave will exclusively or severely target children. However, since this is a population group in which vaccination is yet to begin in the country, there is some fear that children may be more vulnerable to a third wave.
At a review meeting, the Chief Minister also directed that a paediatric unit must be set up in each district and a Centre of Excellence in Paediatrics must be established in the state.
He announced that the government will also establish storage tanks for liquid medical oxygen in every district to ensure 24X7 availability of medical grade oxygen.
He further said that a medical gas pipeline will be set up at each district, subdivision and the community healthcare centre level and also announced that 17 more RTPCR labs shall be set up. ICU beds in government hospitals shall be increased to 142 and a hub and scope model for telemedicine and teleconsultation shall be established, said the Chief Minister.
In reply to a query from the Chief Minister, Dr K K Talwar, Health Advisor To Punjab government, said that in the first and second wave, 10 per cent of those infected were under the age of 18. According to a release, he said that while there was no concrete data to support such a projection, the state is preparing to handle more cases of infection of children in the third wave.
During the meeting, Health Secretary Hussan Lal apprised the Chief Minister that the Corona Virus Alert app was being modified. Mr Singh asked the state Health Department to speed up recruitment for all posts for which Cabinet approval has been obtained, the government release said.
The Chief Minister expressed satisfaction over the strategy for preparation of the third wave, pointing out that testing has been maintained at around 40,000- 45,000 a day, said the release.
Health Minister Balbir Sidhu and Medical Education and Research Minister O P Soni briefed the Chief Minister on the situation in hospitals.
Dr Talwar said at the meeting that Punjab was currently in a comfortable situation though the fear of a third wave remains. The situation may not be as bad as in the second wave unless a new variant comes before that, he said, according to the release. He, however, stressed on the need for extreme caution with crowds building up even as cases were on the rise in some states, the release added.