National Chronicle

With 21K NRIs wanting to return, Amarinder for mandatory quarantine

Chandigarh,   With 21,000 NRIs wanting to return home, Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Tuesday issued a series of directives to contain the coronavirus, including mandatory screening of all returnees with mandatory hotel or home quarantine.

Besides, for those coming from high-risk regions of India, institutional quarantine is a must.

To deal with the additional pressure, the state government has decided to rope in universities and state-run labs, with the Chief Minister sanctioning Rs 12 crore for equipment and operational expenses for six such institutions.

The state has decided to come to the rescue of the Central government testing facilities which are unable to enhance their capacities due to non-availability of kits from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR).

The Chief Minister has directed such centres to purchase kits for use for testing in Punjab from the open market, for which the state will bear the expenses.

The state is currently testing 2,800 people a day, a significant increase from 1,500 per day last week.

The Chief Minister asked the Deputy Commissioners to prepare a list of private hotels that can be utilised for paid quarantine, while asking the Health Department to make an inventory of functional or non-functional private hospitals.

The decisions were announced by the Chief Minister at a virtual meeting with health and medical experts.

Amarinder Singh ordered a readiness audit of level I and II facilities, pointing out that as of now 21,000 Punjabis settled abroad want to return home. He directed the expert committee to formulate its own guidelines and protocols and not take any chances.

Making it clear that he did not believe in the reliability of the certificates that the respective nations were required to give to the returnees, the Chief Minister said the NRIs should be given the option for quarantine, on payment basis, in hotels and at home, under supervision, pending testing, which should be done within 4-5 days of arrival.

On those coming from within the country, the Chief Minister said given the Maharashtra (Nanded) experience, wherein 27 per cent of more than 1,000 Punjabis who had returned so far had already shown positive results, the state would take no chances.

All such returnees would have to be quarantined in state centres, he added.

Earlier in his presentation, expert K.K. Talwar underlined the need for RT-PCR testing of all those returning from red zones.

“If positive, they should be shifted to Level I, II or II healthcare facility as per the clinical status, and if negative, they should be strictly home- quarantined for 14 days, put on COVA app, and follow-ups done by health teams,” he said.

Punjab has also stepped up community surveillance, with 50 lakh tests conducted so far, Principal Secretary Medical Education and Research D.K. Tiwari said.

The community surveillance is being carried out mainly to identify and track those who had sneaked into the state without being screened at the entry point, he said.

The immediate close contacts and family members of such persons are also being screened, he added.

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