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Expressing concern over the high positivity and case fatality rates in Punjab, Chief Minister Amarinder Singh on Wednesday set a daily target of administering 2 lakh COVID-19 vaccine doses for the state health authorities, according to an official statement.

He also asked officials to ramp up sampling to 50,000 per day and vigorously trace 30 contacts of each person who tests positive for the disease, the statement said.

Punjab's positivity rate reached 7.7 per cent and the Case Fatality Rate (CFR) climbed to 2 per cent last week.

The chief minister issued the directions during the weekly review meeting on the COVID-19 situation in the state.

Singh said currently, about 90,000 people are being vaccinated per day in Punjab and this needs to be increased to two lakh people per day, according to the statement.

Vaccination is the only way to prevent the spread of coronavirus, he said, directing the health department to take immediate steps to speed up the drive.

He also asked the chief secretary to address the issue of vaccine hesitancy by undertaking well-designed media campaigns.

Singh said he would again urge the Union government to relax the age criteria for vaccinating people under the age of 45 in areas showing a weekly doubling of positivity rate.

He reiterated his demand that the Union government allow vaccination of all potential "super-spreaders" -- students above 18 years, teachers, councillors and sarpanches, among others.

On the high CFR, the chief minister said these deaths, many of which could have been avoided with timely treatment, pain him.

Singh directed Chief Secretary Vini Mahajan to undertake a massive public awareness campaign to motivate people to approach hospitals at an early stage, the statement said.

"The chief minister was also informed by the Health Department that PGI (Chandigarh) was allegedly refusing to admit patients from Punjab, despite being referred through proper channels," the statement said.

On this, Singh said he would take up the matter with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his meeting with chief ministers on Thursday and request him to direct the hospital to reserve at least 50 ICU beds for patients referred from Punjab, it stated.

However, the PGIMER denied the charge.

Patients arriving at any of the emergencies of the institute are attended to and provided medical care irrespective of their state of domicile, PGIMER said in a statement this evening.

Presently, 50 per cent of the total 166 patients admitted at PGIMER belong to the state of Punjab, it said.

All the ICU beds in the COVID Block are full and 50 per cent of these are occupied by patients from Punjab, it added.

Further in the meeting, Singh said the quality of healthcare in hospitals needs to be improved and the list of approved hospitals with required facilities should be put out in the public domain.

Punjab recorded 2,997 fresh COVID-19 cases on Wednesday that took the infection tally to 2,60,020 while 63 more fatalities pushed the death toll to 7,278, according to official data.

On the issue of vaccine supply, Chief Secretary Mahajan informed the chief minister that the Union government has assured the state that it would not face any shortage.

Following Singh's direction to ramp up daily sampling, the health department assured him that it would be increased to 50,000 -- 35,000 RTPCR and 15,000 Rapid Antigen -- tests, the statement said.

He was also informed that the central government's institutions -- IISER, IMTECH, AIIMS, PGIMER -- were sampling only 100 samples per day, which is low, and the matter was being taken up with the Centre, it said.

Director General of Police Dinkar Gupta informed the chief minister that all districts were taking penal action for the violation of COVID protocols. So far, 2.03 lakh people have been taken for RTPCR tests after they were found not wearing masks in public, the statement said.

The chief minister had last month directed police and health authorities to take people, who are found without face masks in public places, to the nearest RT-PCR testing facility to ensure that they were not asymptomatic coronavirus cases.

Gupta also said 43,000 challans had been issued and 3.60 crore collected in fines from those found violating the COVID protocols.

As many as 206 FIRs having been registered and 246 people arrested, the DGP said. PTI SUN VSD DIV DIV

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