Farmer stir hits Punjab’s Covid-19 testing pace

Health department’s field staff says contact tracing in villages has virtually come to a halt with residents participating in protests
As per the state health department’s media bulletin, sample collection of 23,129 on September 28 was the lowest in the past one week.
As per the state health department’s media bulletin, sample collection of 23,129 on September 28 was the lowest in the past one week.
Updated on Sep 30, 2020 03:39 AM IST
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By, Chandigarh

The protests by farmers over the agriculture bills that were recently passed by Parliament have cast their shadow on the pace of Covid-19 testing in Punjab with daily sample collection going down in the past few days.

The health department’s field staff is attributing the decline in testing to the farmer stir as contact tracing in villages has virtually come to a halt with many a resident participating in the protests.

As per the state health department’s media bulletin, Monday’s sample collection of 23,129 was the lowest in the past one week.

While 30,929 samples were collected on September 25, the figure was 26,531 on September 26; 23,315 on September 27; 23,129 on September 28; and 23,459 on September 29.

The slowdown in sample collection comes amid the state government’s repeated attempts to increase the daily testing to 30,000.

Interestingly, the state witnessed relief in terms of single-day addition of coronavirus cases. On Tuesday, Punjab recorded 1,100 new confirmed cases, the lowest single-day spike in September.

In the past three days, the state had 3,829 fresh positive cases.

“People in villages were already running away from testing. Now, they have got an excuse to do so as they are taking part in protest marches and sit-ins. This became even more pronounced especially after September 25 when the farmers hit the roads on the Punjab bandh call,” a doctor involved in Covid-19 testing in Sangrur district said.

Dr Aslum Parvez, state president of the Rural Medical Services Association who is leading Covid-19 testing team in Patiala villages, said, “We went for testing in a village where a group of influential farmers told me that they will not allow us to enter till the Central government doesn’t withdraw the contentious bills. We had to return empty-handed.”

But state Covid-19 nodal officer Dr Rajesh Bhaskar denied having fresh reports about people avoiding being tested. “The decrease in testing is an outcome of our change in strategy. Earlier, we were conducted targeted testing and were collecting samples, for instance, of teachers, policemen and health workers. Now, we are focusing on smart testing with an emphasis on smart testing and containing the potential virus carriers,” he claimed.

Dr Bhaskar said the caseload is decreasing throughout the country and it is likely that India has touched the pandemic peak and the curve is flattening now.

“But it is too early to say anything right now,” he added.

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