Taking strong exception to the Centre’s criticism of his government’s management of the Covid surge, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh today said not only was the state consistently doing more tests per million than the national average, but the situation would perhaps have been better had the Government of India not delayed opening up of vaccination for 45+ age group.

Had the Central government acceded the state’s request for allowing vaccination of all 50+ category population earlier, instead of delaying the decision to include 45+ age population by almost two months, the situation would perhaps have been better than present, Capt Amarinder said.

The Punjab CM was reacting to the Centre’s allegation that the state government was not doing enough Covid testing and isolating affected people. He said his government had put severe restrictions on social gatherings and closed all educational institutions, with night curfews imposed from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. in severely affected 11 districts.

Capt Amarinder said that the state government had been repeatedly requesting the Centre in writing, as well as in meetings attended by the chief secretary, that the current strategy of immunisation needs a review.

Vaccination in a campaign that covers all age groups in selected areas will lead to better outcomes than the periodic cycles of vaccination targeting a small section of the population at each cycle, he stressed, underlining the need for such approach in any area where weekly testing shows a doubling of positivity rate.

The CM repeated his demand for permission for occupation-based immunisation for school and college students and teachers, judges, bus drivers, conductors and selected public representatives everywhere.

Amarinder also took note of the delay in receiving reports of genome sequencing. Of the 874 samples sent, only 588 reports had been received so far, of which 411 samples were found positive for B.1.1.7 (UK variant and 2 samples positive for N440K. The implication of presence of UK variant mutant needs to be looked into and appropriate advice is required to be shared with the state, the CM urged the Centre.

Citing the factual position on the testing front, Amarinder noted that during the first peak, which happened in September 2020, the positivity rate was around 10 and the state was testing 30,000 Covid samples per day.

Now, when the positivity is over 7 per cent, the state is testing around 40,000 Covid samples per day. Further, the CM pointed out that during the first peak in September 2020, Punjab had increased contact tracing to 10 contacts per positive case. Now, during the second peak, “we are tracing more than 15 contacts per positive case,” he added.