Not a single suspected Coronavirus patient is either missing or absconding in Punjab, Health Minister Balbir Singh Sidhu clarified on Wednesday evening, categorically rejecting media reports to the contrary as "irresponsible and incorrect".
The 167 missing persons referred to by the Ludhiana civil surgeon were not COVID-19 suspected cases but were merely people with foreign travel history who could not be traced due to incomplete contact details shared by the Government of India, said Mr Sidhu, amid reports suggesting that they were suspected coronavirus cases who had absconded or gone missing.
All these persons had already been screened at the airports in Delhi, said the minister, adding that since the coronavirus outbreak, the government of India is sharing reports of passengers with international travel with all the States, including Punjab. While those found symptomatic are admitted in hospital and kept in isolation, as per protocol, the lists of asymptomatic passengers lists are shared with the concerned State, he elaborated. As a matter of precaution, the Punjab government contacts these passengers to re-verify their history and medical condition, he added.
In this case, the contact details of 335 passengers shared by the Government of India were incomplete, and lists of these passengers were shared with the district administration and the central government was also duly informed, Mr Sidhu said. Subsequently, 191 of these passengers were successfully contacted, and they all were found asymptomatic and had crossed 14 days period of observation, he added.
"It is very irresponsible and incorrect to say or suggest that these are suspected cases of COVID-19 merely because they were passengers," the Health Minister said, making it clear that till date, only one confirmed case of COVID-19 has been reported from the State of Punjab.