Punjab to face Covid peak in September, request PM to review UGC exam decision, says Amarinder

state seeks central assistance for online school education, especially for poor children of Classes X and XII

Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, August 11

Amid a surge in Covid cases, Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh on Tuesday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to review the UGC decision on mandatory exams for exit classes to be held by September 30.

During a video-conference between the Prime Minister and other Chief Ministers, Amarinder said, "Punjab may not be in a position to conduct exams in September as it may be facing its coronavirus peak at that time."

Citing the state’s rising Covid cases, which have gone up to 24,891 with 604 deaths, the CM suggested promoting the students on past performance and internal assessment, with the option to take exams later for those wanting to improve their performance.

Punjab also sought central government assistance for online school education, especially for poor children of Classes X and XII. More money was needed for creating the infrastructure required to support online education, he added.

With a 50% decline in revenue in the first fiscal quarter of Punjab, Amarinder also sought from the Prime Minister a liberal financial package for states to fill the collection gap caused by the pandemic, and also flexibility on Covid-related terms of expenditure in the SDRF.

Amarinder said the current cap of 35% in the State Disaster Relief Fund (SDRF) for Covid-related expenditure, as per MHA guidelines, is not sufficient to meet the current requirements.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan also participated in the meeting.

The Chief Minister thanked the Centre for accepting Punjab’s proposal to set up a National Institute of Virology for the North Zone saying the state government would soon give 25 acres of land for the institute.

Though Punjab is conducting 23,000 tests per million for Covid (higher than the national average) and planned to increase RT-PCR tests from 12,000 to 20,000 in the next 15 days, it needed to scale up the testing capacity further, the Chief Minister stressed.

He requested the Prime Minister to direct the central institutions in Chandigarh and Punjab to increase testing capacity.

Expressing concern over the state’s mortality rate of 2.4 per cent, Amarinder said though it was lower than the all-India deaths per million and 91 per cent of the fatality cases were with co-morbidity, it was still higher than the neighbouring Haryana.

Patients were coming to hospitals late and 86 per cent deaths were occurring in tertiary hospitals, he added.

Amarinder requested immediate operationalisation of Covid testing and treatment at AIIMS Bathinda, where OPDs are already functional saying this would be useful for the people of southern Punjab. Noting that the PGI Chandigarh is a premier tertiary care facility for Punjab, he sought an increase in the bed capacity at the hospital and strengthening of the existing PGI Satellite Centre at Sangrur, especially for Covid treatment.

The Chief Minister further urged the Centre for immediate commencement of work on the newly sanctioned PGI Satellite Centre at Ferozepur.

While of the three already sanctioned medical colleges, Mohali Medical College will start classes this year, more such institutions were needed, said the Chief Minister, requesting for new colleges in districts of Gurdaspur, Sangrur and Moga.

Covid had shown that we needed to strengthen public facilities in health, he added.

Giving an update on the Covid situation in the state, Amarinder said it had seen cases go up from 500 to 1,000 in two weeks, with a positivity rate of the last five days at 8.73 per cent.

The majority of cases were coming from Ludhiana, Jalandhar and Patiala cities, though cases were increasing in all districts, he added. The number of micro-containment zones was being increased in high-incidence districts like Ludhiana, Patiala and Jalandhar, he said.

To augment its fight against Covid, the state has opened two plasma banks (in Patiala and Amritsar), with another set to open soon at GMC Faridkot, the Chief Minister said.

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