A sudden surge in Covid-19 cases has set off alarm bells among health officials in Punjab with the government planning to enforce strict social distancing guidelines and crackdown on health workers who avoid getting vaccine jabs.

The daily cases of coronavirus have shot from over 350 to 3,000 in the last 48 hours in Punjab with Nawanshahr district the worst affected.

As per official data, as against 358 cases reported on January 20, almost 3,000 cases were reported on Monday registering a huge spike. There were only 2,000 active cases just three weeks back.

Perturbed by the spike, the health department of Punjab has decided to crack down and take a slew of measures to ensure containment. What has added to the challenge of the health authorities is the ongoing agitation by the farmers. Health officials pointed out whether it is the recent rail roko agitation or the highway jam call, neither social distancing was being maintained nor masks were being used.

Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu admitted laxity in social distancing by people at large. The Health Minister has also warned the health workers to take the vaccination drive seriously. “There is a dire need to get vaccination for all Health Care Workers (HCW) to deal with this unprecedented situation,” he said. The rattled health department has now warned health workers, who refuse to get jabbed, to pay for their treatment in case they contract the infection. The workers will also not be allowed isolation leave.

“These rising cases indicate that Covid-19 is not over yet and Punjab may witness a surge in the number of Covid cases. This highlights the need for following Covid appropriate behaviours like social distancing, wearing of a mask, hand sanitisation and respiratory etiquettes,’’ said Sidhu.

He urged the health care workers to shun hesitancy and come forward to get vaccinated at the earliest for the sake of their own safety and that of their family members and near and dear ones.

Expressing concern over the low rate of vaccination among HCWs and FLWs, Sidhu further said that so far 2.06 lakh health care workers and 1.82 Lakh front line workers (FLWs ) have been registered for Covid-19 vaccination. He said that about 79,000 (38%) HCWs and 4,000 FLWs have been vaccinated and this coverage has not been up to the mark.

“The vaccine is safe and effective and not even a single case of death or any serious adverse effect has been reported in Punjab regarding vaccine administration so far,” Sidhu said.

He informed that the last date of availing the first dose of vaccination for HCW has been extended from February 19, to February 25. He said that “We all are at risk of getting infected and Health Care Workers being Front Line Workers dealing with patients are at a higher risk of getting an infection.”

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