Punjab ramps up its sample collection & lab capabilities significantly: Balbir Singh Sidhu


Punjab has ramped up its sample collection and lab capabilities significantly which has contributed towards containing the spread of infection. It was disclosed by Health Minister Mr. Balbir Singh Sidhu in press release.

Mr. Sidhu said that Punjab has crossed the testing of 3,24,000 samples for COVID-19. Since its first confirmed COVID-19 positive case on 5th March, 2020, the state has increased its testing capacity per million figures to 9,949 per day as on 30th June, 2020. This is better than the national average of 6653 tests per million per day. After completing the testing of 1 Lakh samples on 4th June 2020, the state has reached the milestone of testing 3 Lakh samples within a month. This shows the strides the state has been making in ramping up its testing capacity. Starting with an initial testing capacity of only 40 (as on 9th March, 2020), Punjab has enhanced its capacity to 9000 tests per day as on date with concerted efforts.

To further increase the testing in the state, besides three labs in government medical colleges- Amritsar, Patiala & Faridkot, four new labs are being established at GADVASU Ludhiana, RDDL Jalandhar , Forensic Science lab in Mohali, and Punjab Biotech Incubator in Mohali adding that he said currently, 15 TruNaat Testing machines have been installed in the district hospitals of the state. As early detection is the key to bring down mortality, therefore to reduce the turnaround time, additional TruNaat machines are being procured by the state which gives test report in 1-1.5 hours.

The Minister divulged that with the aim of containing the disease within a defined geographical area by early detection and prevent its spread to new areas, the state has decided to setup Micro-Containment Zones. Any specific area within a village/ ward having more than 5 and up to 15 COVID positive cases and with a population of not more than 500 shall be designated as Micro Containment Zone. As on 2nd July 2020, 42 Micro-Containment Zones have been identified in the state. The strategy would include geographical quarantine, social distancing measures, enhanced active surveillance, testing all suspected cases, isolation of cases/ home quarantine social mobilization to follow preventive public health measures.

In order to upscale the capacity of sample collection, the Department of Health has been increasing the number of Flu Corners where sample collection is being done. Mobile teams have been formed in Containment and Micro-Containment Zones. For the purpose of surveillance, around 995 Rapid Response Teams have been formed in the State to conduct active surveillance and identification of people with Influenza-like Illness or Severe Acute Respiratory Illness by the house to house visits.

In order to increase surveillance, the Department had conducted an extensive House to House Surveillance in the entire state manually. However, in order to digitize and improve the quality of this activity, an in-house Mobile Application has been made by the Department for House to House Community Surveillance for identifying people with co-morbidities and identifying their medical symptoms/contact history/travel history for COVID-19 related surveillance. The survey covers all people above the age of 30 years and people with co-morbidities or is symptomatic even below 30 years of age. 37,89,542 persons have been surveyed till 2nd July 2020 on the mobile application.

Additionally, a pilot project in collaboration with Centre for Policy Research has been started in Kharar sub-division of SAS Nagar district for the testing of population in specific categories and occupations, people from urban wards. The survey is spatially structured, with sampling being done polling booth wise. Also, the state is planning to initiate Rapid Antigen Testing for high risk contacts, SARI cases and in containment zones as probability of positivity is high among these groups in future.

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