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Lack of contact tracing of Coronavirus positive patients has been found in several districts of the state of Punjab in a recent visit of a central Covid-19 team. The lack of contact tracing was found to be on account of a large number of Coronavirus cases getting traced in the state. As per the data of the state government more than 90 percent of the Coronavirus cases had no previous contact or link with a previously traced Coronavirus patient, as per the Indian Express report.
Contact tracing in Punjab
In the past few days, the state government officials were only able to trace about 5-7% of new Coronavirus patients with previously traced Covid positive patients. Many districts in the state for the past few days have even shown 100 percent of the cases having no previous history or exposure to Coronavirus. The team sent by the central government has flagged lack of contact tracing as a major concern in the state. A Doaba based doctor told the Indian Express that the central government has issued instructions to the state health officials to trace a minimum of 30 contacts of a Coronavirus patient but that is not being complied with.
Is contact tracing even possible?
A senior Medical Officer of the state government told the Indian Express that it was near impossible to trace as many as 30 contacts of a Coronavirus patient.Citing an example of a family where three members have tested positive the officer said that how would the officials be able to trace 90 contacts of the family. The officer further said that amidst the Covid-19 restrictions and closure of the majority of public activities even the most individuals cannot have interacted with as many as 30 people.
Is shortage of manpower hindering contact tracing?
Even the central team acknowledged that the Covid-19 teams are short on field staff as the state is recording about 7000 new cases on an average per day. While teams have been formed which dial the Covid-19 patients and ask about contacts they may have interacted with in the last few days but the rise in number of cases has made it impossible to contact these many patients everyday. The authorities overwhelmed with the new cases are therefore forced to mark the cases as new Covid cases having no history of contact or exposure to the virus.
Are Covid-19 patients also uncooperative?
An official of Data management Cell, Jalandhar told the Indian Express that a large number of patients deny that they are Covid-19 positive while many others abort the call midway. The officials in such situations note down the patient’s details and pass it onto the ground staff including Aaganwadi workers who physically attempt to trace the contacts of such patients. All said and done, the whole exercise of contact tracing seems to be an uphill task amidst the rising number of cases. Dr Rajesh Bhaskar, state Covid-19 Nodal Officer told the Indian Express that the best way to control the pandemic was for people to stay at home.