Laxity leads to Punjab COVID surge

Express News Service
CHANDIGARH: Punjab is witnessing a rise in Covid-19 cases in the past two weeks with schoolchildren and teachers having been found infected by the virus after the reopening of schools amid a lax attitude of the people towards following precautions. Testing, too, has slowed down.

State health department data on Tuesday showed 614 students and teachers tested positive between February 9 and 23. The cases have been reported from more than 1,400 schools, both government and private.

“We need to study the positivity rate among students and teachers to get to the core of the virus infection,” said an official.

The School Education Department had recently observed that teachers and students in many schools have not been adhering to the Covid guidelines laid down by the government.

In a letter to all district education officers (DEOs), the school education secretary stated that adhering to the guidelines in all private and government schools was mandatory and every school needed to enforce them in letter and spirit.

Schools for Classes IX to XII reopened on October 15, for V to VIII from January 7 and III to IV from January 27. Pre-primary and Class I and II opened from February 1.

“Cases are rising due to two reasons. First is reopening of schools. Most cases have come from three districts — SBS Nagar, Ludhiana and Bathinda. Positivity rate among schoolchildren in these districts is 2.7%, 3.1% and 2.9%. The overall positivity rate among schoolchildren across the state is 1.1%,” said Principal Secretary (Health and Family Welfare) Husan Lal.

“The second reason is people are not wearing masks or observing social distancing. In the last two weeks, the daily average number of cases is around 350 across the state. In January, daily average was around 250,” he said.

Punjab Chief Secretary Vinni Mahajan ruled out closing schools again and said all steps were taken to ensure the safety of students.

Education Secretary Krishan Kumar said teachers have been designated nodal officers in schools to instruct students on the proper use of masks and ensure adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour.

Data with the health department reveals tests have come down. In September, 25,342 tests were conducted daily. In October, the number was 23,663, in November 19,079, December 22,331, January 18,086 and in February (to date) 17,771.

CM orders restrictions on gatherings & hot spots

Punjab CM Amarinder Singh on Tuesday ordered restrictions on indoor gatherings to 100 and outdoor to 200 persons from March 1. He authorised Deputy Commissioners to impose night curfews in hot spots if needed, along with strict enforcement of masks and social distancing.

Chairing a virtual meeting,  Amarinder directed the police to ensure strict enforcement of rules. Private offices and restaurants shall be encouraged to display latest tests done for all employees, he added.