Chandigarh: Vaccination, testing paramount, say doctors

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IN a week, the number of active Covid-19 cases in the city has increased from 41 to 66, with the average number of positive cases in the last seven days being seven. Many doctors had warned that there could be an increase in cases after November 25 because of the festive season, and people not following Covid appropriate behaviour.

The last one week has seen a marginal rise in cases, and the emergence of Omicron (B.1.1.529), a new variant of concern of SARS-CoV-2, has also initiated a number of measures to once again follow the ‘Test-Track-Treat-Vaccinate-Covid appropriate behaviour’ policy. With OPDs now fully functional and attending to almost the same number of patients during pre-Covid, PGI, GMCH 32, GMSH 16 have increased testing in OPDs. According to Dr Naveen Pandey, in charge of the OPDs, patients coming to the ENT, dental, and pulmonology departments in PGI will be tested. To increase the pace of testing, one kiosk is being set up in the OPD as well as in Trauma, where symptomatic patients coming from outside will also undergo an RTPCR test.

Dr Jasbinder Kaur, Director Principal, GMCH 32 and Head of the Department of Biochemistry says that they have started testing patients in OPDs, as per the orders of the Chandigarh Administration. “All patients with symptoms will undergo an RTPCR test. In our lab, we have a capacity to test around 1,200 samples a day. My first suggestion to people is not to ignore any symptoms associated with Covid-19 and get tested immediately. Though the rise in cases may be small, we have to observe precautions and caution. We cannot afford to be careless, for we can’t predict how the virus will behave. We need to observe the trend for a week or two,” explains Dr Kaur.

Dr Suman Singh, Director of Health Services says that to assess the spread of the disease, testing is paramount, and that is why the mobile teams are testing across the city, especially in public places. “We are testing people visiting our OPDs and no protocols regarding testing and tracing have been withdrawn. In GMSH-16 alone, we are doing an average of 1,400 tests daily and these will only increase. As far as the RTPCR lab in GMSH16 is concerned, it is in the pipeline, as there are a few changes required related to civil engineering, though our equipment has started coming in. I want people to go back to March 2021, mask up, wash hands, maintain social distancing and get their second vaccination to check the spread of disease and break the link of infection. In case of any symptoms, come to the hospital and get yourself tested,” says Dr Suman.

Dr VK Nagpal, Medical Superintendent, GMSH 16 and Joint Director, Health says that even if there are six or nine cases, it is important to remember that there is a prevalence of infection and in the community. So, to break the link of infection, enhanced contact tracing, testing immediate family members and close contacts is important.

Dr Ramneek Bedi, Advisor, World Medical Association and former national vice-president, IMA, says that as flights from various countries where the Omicron variant of Covid-19 has been detected have arrived in India, we really don’t know how many cases there could be in the country. “What we know is that the transmissibility factor of this variant is high and the severity of disease we cannot establish right now. Infected people must be quarantined in institutions and not homes, and genome sequencing is vital at this stage to check the spread and a surge in cases,” says Dr Bedi, adding that people need to mask up immediately. As for the booster dose, Dr Bedi says medically speaking, it is very at this stage.

During the review of the Covid-19 vaccination in the UT, the Health Department has observed that the second dose of Covid vaccination is due for about 1,80,000 people who took their first dose of vaccination in Chandigarh.

According to Prof Rakesh Kochhar from PGI, these people are at risk themselves as well as others including their family members. “It is vital to take both doses of the vaccine, for only after the second dose, the real protection starts. Fully vaccinated people are protected against Covid per se, serious disease and hospitalisation as well as death. Data also suggests benefits in a spread as well,” sums up Prof Kochhar.

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