Appreciating Punjab’s Covid micro-containment and house-to-house surveillance strategy, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday asked all other states to adopt the model, which was helping Punjab successfully control the spread of the pandemic to a significant extent.The Prime Minister intervened as Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh was describing the state’s model to combat Covid and suggested that all states should follow the same strategic approach to effectively counter Covid.The Prime Minister was conducting a Video Conference meeting with chief ministers of Punjab and some other states, as part of his scheduled 2-day interactions to review the Covid situation and management strategies of all the states. He will be holding a similar meeting with the chief ministers of the other states tomorrow.During the meeting, Captain Amarinder Singh suggested to the Prime Minister to set up a Group, which should include a few chief ministers, to discuss and formulate a coordinated Centre-State response to the devastating impact of Covid on the economy and governments across the country.During a Video Conference with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was joined by Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan, the Punjab Chief Minister requested that the Centre should work closely with the states to ease the distress caused by the pandemic and the subsequent lockdown.While living with Covid was the new normal since the lockdown could not continue indefinitely as the cycle of economy, once broken, takes a long time to restart, the need of the hour was to take care of both lives and livelihoods, as the Prime Minister had himself said in his VC in April, the Chief Minister pointed out.Captain Amarinder recalled that when, in early April, he had said that Covid could go on till September, he had been called an alarmist by some people.
But with experts now warning that the pandemic could continue even beyond September, it was important to learnt to co-exist with it and cope with it better, he stressed, underlining the need for the central and state governments to work in close coordination for this.Calling for urgent steps to mitigate Punjab’s financial stress, the Chief Minister said a detailed memorandum had already been sent to the Government of India, listing out the impact of Covid-19 and also seeking fiscal and non-fiscal assistance. Even as he thanked the Prime Minister and Finance Minister for the release of GST payment of around Rs 2800 crore in early June, Captain Amarinder said while he appreciated that the Government of India (GoI) was also under financial stress, he had to request for release of the state’s pending share of taxes to tide over the fiscal crisis. The crisis in Punjab was likely to be acute with around Rs. 25,000-30,000 crore shortfall in revenue collection on various counts, he said.Even though Punjab’s contribution to the all-India cases was less than 1% (at 3140 cases) at present, with a mortality rate of 2.1% and recovery rate of 75%, the curve was rising as a result of the inbound travellers and the easing of restrictions and more mixing of people, the Chief Minister said, giving a status update on the Covid situation prevailing in the state. Emphasising the need for more tests, despite the current 5527 tests per million in Punjab being higher than the all India average of 4088, Captain Amarinder reiterated his request to the Prime Minister to direct GoI institutions in Chandigarh and Punjab to increase testing capacity.On the state’s preparedness to tackle further spread of the pandemic, the Chief Minister informed the meeting that 5000 isolation beds were ready in Government Level 2 & 3 facilities, in addition to 10-15,000 beds in Level 1 Covid Care Centres for mild patients.
These Level 1 beds can be scaled to 30,000, if the need arises, he said, adding that for tertiary level care, the state government had also secured the participation of private hospitals for tertiary level care.Captain Amarinder said the state government was working on a multi-pronged strategy to fight the pandemic. Some restrictions had been imposed over the weekends and holidays, and strict enforcement of all protocols was being ensured through fines. The focus was currently on micro-containment strategy to isolate small mohallas or village wards rather than close down larger areas, he said, adding that a special app had also been launched for house-to-house surveillance to detect any possible cases and persons with co-morbidities to catch high-risk patients early. Captain Amarinder also spoke about the Mission Fateh launched to generate public awareness and the focus on facilitating a behavioural change through celebrity endorsements, videos, on-ground activities and through fines.The Chief Minister reiterated his request for extension of the free food grains scheme for the poor by six months, and expressed the hope that the Centre would take note of his earlier suggestion on providing revenue grants to the States for 3 months to meet shortfall in revenue and to fund expenditure on Covid-19. The 15th Finance Commission should also review its report for the current year as situation has completely changed due to COVID-19, as proposed earlier, he added.Pointing to the GoI’s decision to allow increase in borrowing limits under FRBM Act from 3 to 5%, which required 3 of the 4 conditions to be fulfilled to avail full 2% additional borrowing, the Chief Minister urged the Prime Minister to relook some of the conditionalities, given the situation on the ground. He pointed out that the borrowing was a loan that States have to repay and not a grant by GoI.