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Coronavirus: Punjab, Haryana to step up screening as COVID-19 spreads it tentacles in villages

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Chandigarh, May 11: The spread of coronavirus infection in rural areas of Punjab and Haryana has become a cause for concern, with the authorities deciding to intensify screening and testing in villages.

According to a data of the Punjab Health Department, the current case fatality rate in Punjab's rural areas is 2.7 per cent as against less than one per cent in urban areas. A major spike in COVID-19 cases has been witnessed in the Malwa region, officials said.

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In neighbouring Haryana, 8,000 multidisciplinary teams led by trainee doctors, Accredited Social Health Activists (ASHAs) and Anganwadi workers, are being constituted for a door-to-door screening in villages, officials said. Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar had on Monday said the COVID-19 spread is not confined to urban areas only, but it is also hitting rural areas hard.

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"The health staff will collect samples of symptomatic persons and their family members in rural areas," a senior Punjab health official said on Tuesday. Services of all the paramedical staff are also being utilised to conduct surveys of the rural population and ensure that maximum sampling is done, the officials said.

The health authorities ascribed the higher death rate in rural areas to the self-medication by villagers and delay in going for testing. People in rural areas take to self-medication or buy medicines from chemists for fever or any other problem but they do not get themselves tested, said officials.

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But when they face breathing complications or when they are at an advanced stage of the disease, they get themselves admitted to hospitals, they further said. Officials have also stressed that there was a need to prioritise monitoring of home isolation cases to identify serious patients in rural areas.

The Punjab Health Department has also directed that COVID-19 testing of symptomatic patients getting treatment from private clinics and registered medical practitioners in rural areas must be ensured. Wary of the situation, Haryana Chief Minister Manohar Lal Khattar directed officials concerned to take appropriate steps, saying rural areas will have to be protected from the infection at any cost.

Therefore, a massive COVID-19 screening campaign should be conducted, he said. The chief minister said since the infection is spreading fast in rural areas, screening camps focusing on "test, track and treat" should be held. Haryana's Home and Health Minister Anil Vij said teams are conducting surveys in rural areas.

On 21 people dying in Rohtak's Titoli village in April, Vij had recently said only four of these were confirmed to have been died due to COVID. There have been reports of nearly 40 deaths in Mundhal Khurd and Mundhal Kalan villages in Bhiwani in recent weeks, with many passing away within days away after suddenly taking sick.

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