Experts see no link between Punjab Covid-19 surge, farm protest gatherings
Punjab health department experts say there is no direct link between flouting of Covid-19 protocols at the farmers’ protests against the Centre’s three agriculture laws and a surge in the cases of virus infection in the state.
State Covid-19 nodal officer Dr Rajesh Bhaskar said, “Our analysis reveals that 70% of the total cases reported this year so far are from urban areas where protocols were not followed at business, work and social gatherings. Only 30% of the cases are from rural areas which are hubs of farmer protests.”
Also, the infection positivity rate in urban areas is 2.5% while it is 1% in rural pockets.
The districts considered the hubs of farm protests, particularly those in the state’s south-west Malwa region, have the lowest cases in the state. For instance, Mansa and Barnala, which are witnessing a large number of protests and movement of farmers to Delhi, 510 and 368 cases were recorded from March 1 to April 4, much less than what many other districts are reporting in a single day.
In south-west Malwa, only Bathinda district saw more than 100 daily cases on few occasions over the past one month.
However, some doctors said testing in the villages of the belt has been inadequate as farmer unions have given call to boycott health department teams.
Dr Bhaskar denied such reports. “Testing in all districts is being monitored as they are being given targets according to the number of cases. If the spread is slow, contract tracing will be less and so will be sampling,” he said.
On Monday, 667 samples were taken in Mansa and 780 in Barnala.
Districts like Ludhiana, Mohali, Jalandhar, Amritsar and Patiala are recording the highest surge in the state. Here too, most cases are being reported in the urban areas.
Punjab Covid-19 management group head and former PGIMER, Chandigarh, director Dr KK Talwar said, “The likely reason behind less cases in rural areas is that the protests are being held in open areas. Virus is more likely to spread in indoor gatherings. In open areas, the chances of infection are less if you are in a small gathering and are wearing a mask,” said Dr Talwar.
The health department data also shows not even a single super-spreader case has surfaced at farm protests in the state in the last 3 months. The urban pockets have seen many such incidents at marriages and funerals.
In the Malwa belt, Mohali, Ludhiana and Patiala are the worst-hit districts but here too most cases were reported in urban areas, the figures show.