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Home / Chandigarh / Government caught napping as Nanded pilgrims jack up Punjab’s count

Government caught napping as Nanded pilgrims jack up Punjab’s count

36 of the 1,000 tested found positive so far; guidelines to quarantine visitors issued on April 27, two days after first batch of pilgrims entered state

chandigarh Updated: Apr 29, 2020 23:25 IST
Ravinder Vasudeva
Ravinder Vasudeva
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh

The state government’s preparedness to deal with people entering Punjab from other states has been exposed as 36 pilgrims who returned from Hazur Sahib in Nanded, Maharashtra, in the past three days have tested positive for coronavirus. On Wednesday alone, 24 Nanded-returnees were found infected with the virus.

The state’s health department was caught napping as it had no strategy to deal with the Punjabis entering the state, especially Maharashtra, which is one of the worst-hit states as far as coronavirus cases are concerned. The guidelines to quarantine these visitors in government facilities were issued on April 27, two days after the first batch of pilgrims entered the state and that too after three of them were found Covid-19 positive in Tarn Taran district.

When the guidelines were issued, the damage had already been as more than 500 pilgrims had entered in the state by April 27 evening.

In absence of any strategy before the guidelines were sent to deputy commissioners, Nanded-returnees were advised home quarantine after thermal screening. There are reports that these visitors not only met fellow villagers and family members, but were accorded welcome by people at several places. On April 28, the panic-struck health department called back all Nanded-returnees from home quarantine and shifted them to government facilities and started taking their samples.

As per the health department’s official spokesperson for Covid-19, around 4,000 pilgrims have already entered Punjab. Many are said to be on their way as government-run buses sent to ferry them are still arriving. Health department officials says more than 1,500 pilgrims who returned from Nanded have tested for Covid-19.

SOURCE OF VIRUS UNKNOWN

Many pilgrims who spoke to HT claimed that during their stay of over one-and-a-half month in Nanded, confirmatory tests were conducted results of which came negative.

“We underwent regular medical check-ups during our stay in Nanded and those with minor symptom were checked and even confirmatory tests were conducted. Nanded reported its first case on April 22. May be, our fellow pilgrims contracted the virus on their way to Punjab,” Surjit Kaur Khalsa, a Sikh pilgrims from Bathian village of Gurdaspur district said, adding that she and around 1,000 other Sikh pilgrims were stuck at Gurdwara Langar Sahib in Nanded. Health department officials said more than 2,000 pilgrims reached Punjab in private vehicles hired by Takht Hazur Sahib management. The others are coming in Punjab government-run buses which have specially sent to Nanded.

HEALTH MINISTER PUTS BLAME ON MAHA GOVT

Punjab health minister Balbir Singh Sidhu has blamed the Maharashtra government for not carrying out tests on pilgrims before sending them back to Punjab. “We conducted tests on people of other states stuck in Punjab before sending them back,” he said. He said the Maharashtra government also did not share the information on private vehicles being used by pilgrims to enter Punjab.

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