Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh Sunday launched what he described as "Covid Fateh" drive to tackle the spread of coronavirus in rural areas of the state.
Mr Singh launched the "Corona-Mukt Pind Abhiyaan" (corona-free village drive), asserting that there was an urgent need to "avoid the kind of situation, prevailing in Uttar Pradesh villages".
The Punjab CM referred to the alleged spread of infection in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh amid his ongoing spat with his UP counterpart Yogi Adityanath over the making of the state's only Muslim-majority town in Sangrur district a separate district in Punjab.
We need to check the spread of #Covid19 in our villages if we are to defeat this pandemic. Hence I have directed Health Dept to start 'Corona Mukt Pind Abhiyaan' to promote awareness & testing among people with our PHCs and Health & Wellness Clinics being fulcrum of our effort. pic.twitter.com/VHyQvzECDW— Capt.Amarinder Singh (@capt_amarinder) May 16, 2021
It had drawn a sharp reaction from Mr Adityanath who described the decision as "divisive and communal".
Dubbing Covid-Fateh as a "war that needed the involvement of all sections of the community", the Punjab CM asked the Health and Rural Development departments of the state to spearhead the campaign with large-scale mobilisation of village people.
The entire staff should be utilised to spread awareness among villagers against the dangers of Covid-19, he said.
The health and wellness clinics should become the fulcrum, the CM said, adding that community health officers, panchayats, school teachers, Anganwadi and ASHA workers, village police officers and youth volunteers must be mobilised on a large scale to steer the programme.
The Guardians of Governance, comprising ex-servicemen engaged to monitor enforcement of government schemes, and the police force should work closely to make this programme a success, the CM said.
The idea is to not just spread awareness and dispel myths but to ensure that adequate sampling and vaccination are being carried out in rural areas, he said.
Terming the "casual attitude of the people towards symptoms like cold and cough, which they do not report in time, as the biggest issue", Amarinder Singh called for early identification of infected people and to ensure their early treatment.
Symptomatic persons should be given basic medicines like paracetamol, cough syrups and vitamin C tablets at their doorsteps, he said.
They should be encouraged to get tested and supported in home isolation if they test positive, the chief minister said.
He directed the Health Department to provide additional Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) kits exclusively for testing in rural areas.
The Department should also consider opening Covid Care Centers (L1) where ever required, with the support of NGOs, he said.