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Punjab sets target of 12,000 tests per day

Directs Covid hotbed districts of Amritsar, Jalandhar and Ludhiana to test 1,300 samples daily
Hindustan Times, Amritsar | By Mandeep Kaur Narula, Amritsar
PUBLISHED ON JUL 26, 2020 01:00 AM IST

Though the health officials are facing a tough task to achieve the daily Covid-19 testing target due to limited resources and manpower, the health department has increased the state’s testing target by 25%.

The state government had earlier set the daily testing target at 9,480, with the highest target given to three hotbed districts—Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar—of 1,050. However, the target was set at 9,480 when the state had the testing capacity of approximately 9,800 per day, with government medical colleges (GMCs) in Faridkot, Patiala and Amritsar testing 9,000 samples daily. The other 800 tests can be done at private labs, private hospitals and PGIMER, Chandigarh.

The state government now revised the daily target to around 12,000 tests and directed Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jalandhar authorities to test 1,300 samples per day. Also, the state government said in the notice that 915 health workers, in 305 teams, are required to achieve the daily sample collection target.

The target has been increased after spike in the testing capacity from 9,000 tests in government institutions to 12,000 tests per day. Besides, four new labs for testing Covid-19 samples have been established at Jalandhar, Ludhiana and Mohali and the capacity of each lab would be 250 per day to begin with, which will be increased to 1,000 per day by August-end.

A health official, requesting anonymity, said: “The daily testing target has always remained a challenge. Against the set target of 9,480, the state was only testing 7,000-8,000 patients per day till early July. On June 29, only 6,926 samples were tested and the number was 7,561 on June 30. It was after the sudden spike in cases in Ludhiana and Jalandhar that the daily testing target was being achieved.”

As per the state’s Covid-19 bulletin, only 8,705 samples were added to the total tests on July 24.

State covid-19 nodal officer Dr Rajesh Bhaskar said: “The testing capacity in GMCs of Amritsar, Patiala and Faridkot have been increased from 3,000 tests each to 4,000 tests each per day. The revised targets have been set accordingly. We are continuously directing district officers to increase the daily sample collection so that more and more tests can be conducted. We have already conducted more than 5 lakh Covid-19 tests in the state and tests are being done as per capacity.”

‘UPHILL TASK TO ACHIEVE TARGET’

“We have limited staff to collect samples as most of them are assigned contact tracing and screening tasks at public places. Different teams are required to conduct antigen tests. We are collecting, on an average, 800-900 samples daily. Efforts are on to achieve the target,” said Amritsar assistant civil surgeon Dr Amarjit Singh.

Jalandhar civil surgeon Dr Gurvinder Kaur said: “We are collecting 900-1,000 samples per day but people are reluctant to get themselves tested. Persuading them and then collecting samples takes a lot of time.”

The testing capacity of the state is set to increase as rapid antigen testing will start in all districts of the state after the successful completion of its pilot project.

The state government started the antigen testing project on July 10 on the symptomatic people, with 5,000 kits at its disposal. “Till now, 109 people were tested positive in Punjab through this testing. The results are accurate and antigen testing has been approved. 10,000 more antigen kits have been ordered for the state”, said Dr Bhaskar.

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