Preparing for the worst, Punjab to set up Covid care centres with 20,000 beds
In the first phase, 28 such centres with a total of 12,000 beds are being readied in all 22 districts to prepare for a large Covid-19 outbreakUpdated: Apr 30, 2020 23:22 IST
The Punjab government is setting up Covid-19 care centres with 20,000 beds across the state, in what officials described as preparations for the “worse case” scenario.
A Covid-19 care centre is a makeshift facility for persons who have been clinically diagnosed as mild cases. As per the guidelines issued by the Union ministry of health and family welfare, every centre is to be mapped to one or more dedicated Covid hospitals for referral purposes. Each centre will also have a dedicated basic life support ambulance equipped with sufficient oxygen support on a 24x7 basis.
These isolation centres are being established in hostels of meritorious schools, colleges, and universities, both government and private, across the state.
In the first phase, 28 such centres with a total of 12,000 beds are being readied in all 22 districts to prepare for a large Covid-19 outbreak, if and when it happens, in the state. The care centres or isolation wards will be in addition to around 5,000 beds, including 922 intensive care units (ICU) beds, to become available in 54 government Covid-19 hospitals in the next two months.
STATE OF READINESS
Rajat Agarwal, the member convener of the Covid care committee, said these centres are being set up in phases as part of preparations for the worst-case scenario so that we are not caught unaware if there is a large breakout. “Then, these 5,000 hospital beds will not suffice and patients with mild symptoms will be kept in these makeshift hospitals for immediate medical care. The centres will be kept in a state of readiness but operationalised only when required,” he said. The first care centres will be started on a trial basis in about a week in Ludhiana followed by Amritsar, Jalandhar and Mohali.
The spread of Covid-19 in Punjab, which has been under curfew since March 23, is presently much slower than as observed in several other states with 380 positive cases as on April 29 and a doubling rate of 13 days. The state’s count saw a spike of 105 on Thursday as several of the 4,000-odd pilgrims, who were stranded at Gurdwara Hazur Sahib in Nanded (Maharashtra) for weeks and been brought back in the past three days, tested positive, setting alarm bells ringing in official circles.
SPIKE IN COUNT OMINOUS
Similarly, 3,500 students and workers are returning to Punjab from Kota and Jaisalmer (Rajasthan) and fresh information has been received about another 2,900 workers stranded in different areas of the state. At the same time, the state government has, while extending the curfew for two weeks, decided to allow the easing of lockdown restrictions for shops, industrial units and construction activities in non-containment zones with strict adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols. The lockdown exit, even if calibrated and phased, poses its serious challenges as there are apprehensions that it may fuel the virus spread and lead to more positive cases.
Though only 356 beds are occupied presently with not a single patient in the ICU, the ministry of health and family welfare, as mentioned in the expert panel’s report on lockdown exit, has projected that by May 24, the total cases will jump to 2,400 in the state against the availability of 5,860 beds. As per Niti Ayog’s projections, the state will have a higher load of Covid-19 positive cases by May 31 and not enough beds in hospitals to cope with the projected number.
CARE CENTRES TO HOUSE RETURNEES
The health department has decided to thrown open the Covid-19 care centres for Punjabis who are returning from other states and are required to be quarantined in designated quarantine centres set up in most districts due to the sudden surge in their numbers. “In case the dedicated quarantine facilities fall short for the persons to be quarantined, the district administration may use 50% of the capacities of these centres for quarantine of these people,” according to an order issued on Wednesday.