Chandigarh: The Punjab government on Saturday announced a special health insurance cover of Rs 50 lakh each for policemen and sanitation workers who are in the frontline of the battle against the coronavirus threat.
As an emergency measure to combat the deadly virus, the Punjab Cabinet led by Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also authorised the Procurement Committee headed by Additional Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to do quick price discovery for all purchases related to COVID-19 management and containment, and make purchases on urgent basis, a statement issued said.
The committee has been authorised to make spot purchases and exigency procurement, bypassing normal procedures, in exercise of emergency powers under the National Disaster Management Act 2005, it said.
The cabinet also allowed the committee to procure essential and emergent medical items at prevalent market prices as the same had risen substantially due to widespread demand to combat COVID-19, the statement said.
The chief minister directed that no bureaucratic hassles should be allowed to come in the way of any urgent purchases that may be needed in this critical hour.
The cabinet announced a special health insurance cover of Rs 50 lakhs each for police personnel and sanitation workers who are in the frontline of the battle against COVID-19, on the lines of the insurance cover announced earlier by the Centre for such people, the statement said.
Taking serious note of shutdown of operations by several private hospitals, the cabinet decided a strict action against them, with the chief minister suggesting that the health department should cancel their licences for refusing to treat COVID-19 patients, it said.
Singh termed it as a cowardly act and said the hospitals cannot go into hiding at such a critical juncture.
The Council of Ministers, which met through a video conferencing to review the current situation in the state, decided that the arrangements to manage COVID-19 patients should be scaled up gradually to cater to larger number of patients, keeping in view harvesting and procurement of wheat, rising trend in the country and the state as well as apprehensions of community spread (stage 3) and prevalence of an unknown and unprecedented pandemic, the statement said.
It was further decided that a contingency plan should be prepared with alternative locations, equipment, and officers to deal with any emergent situation whereby any of the existing arrangements fail or collapse, it said.
The state health department earlier informed the cabinet that once the rapid testing kits and the final guidelines come in from the Centre, rapid tests will begin in the state to speed up the identification of positive cases, the statement said.
The rapid testing will be done for symptomatic and asymptomatic cases at all the hotspots, while symptomatic cases will be similarly tested in the non-hotspot areas, it said.
The department has already started community testing in hotspots, the cabinet was informed. Contact tracing of the Nizamuddin congregation returnees was being done on an aggressive scale and 192 persons from the list of 255 received by the state had already been tested and isolated, the health department said.
In addition, tracking was being done for all foreign returnees, as well as high-risk categories such as healthcare professionals and police, it said.
So far, contact tracing had been done for 1,600, including 846 high-risk personnel and of them, 34 had tested positive, the cabinet was informed. Geographical mapping was also being done of the movement of patients from their locations to hospitals and people were cooperating in the contact tracing process, the health department said.
It further informed the cabinet that there were enough PPEs for the healthcare workers. Health Minister Balbir Singh Sandhu said 1000 PPEs each were being made available at government hospitals.
On the preparedness for tackling further spread of the disease, the cabinet was informed that 5,000 isolation beds have been identified, of which 2,500 are already operational, the statement said.
Buildings, including hostels, are being taken over and declared isolated for the creation of such facilities, with the state planning for 20,000 cases, it said.
To further strengthen the supplies, 20 industries have been identified for manufacturing of PPE kits and N95 masks, and five among them have already been approved, the statement said. Another half a dozen industries have been identified for the manufacture of low-cost ventilators, it added.