Every second person infected by Covid-19 in Punjab, which is witnessing a second wave of the contagion, is below 40 years of age. An analysis by the state health department of the Covid-19 data for 2021 has also revealed that at least 31 per cent of those who contracted the virus were aged 30 or less. However, a majority 60 per cent of those who died of Covid in Punjab were aged 61 or above.
The figures raise a question mark over the Centre’s stand against opening up vaccination for all. The Centre had said that it aims to protect the vulnerable population and vaccinate “those who require it”, not those who “want it”. Punjab, citing the fresh surge in cases, was one of the first states to urge the Centre to urgently open up vaccination for a larger section of the population.
Punjab, as per Centre, is among three states that are cause of concern. Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan on Tuesday, had said that “three per cent of the total cases (across India) are being reported from Punjab now and it accounts for 4.5 per cent of the total fatalities in the country”.
State Covid-19 nodal officer Dr Rajesh Bhaskar said that as per the age-wise analysis of the 75,500 cases that were reported in Punjab this year from January 1 to April 4, at least 30.80 per cent patients were aged 30 or less. “However, the maximum persons infected were from 31-40 years of age group (19 per cent) followed by 41-50 years (17.20 per cent) and 21-30 years (16.90 per cent),” he said, adding that it was high time the central government opened the vaccination for all before it was too late.
“There should be no age bar now seeing how second wave is spreading. Everyone who wants to get vaccinated should be allowed before it’s too late. Only then we would be able to cover maximum population. Age bar is a limitation,” he said.
The analysis shows that maximum positivity is among persons aged 31-40, he said, adding it was because this age group is the most mobile and engaged in traveling for their livelihoods.
According to a study by the Imperial College of London, the UK strain which is ‘more transmissible’, also appears to affect youngsters the most (aged 20 or less). As per the genome sequencing results of the samples that were sent from Punjab, at least 80 per cent have been found carrying the UK strain.
Of the total infected patients, two per cent were below two years of age, as per the analysis of age-wise distribution of Covid cases in state. The break-up further shows that 11.90 per cent of the infected patients were from the age group 11-20 years, 16.90 per cent from 21-30 years, 19 per cent from 31-40 years, 17.20 per cent from 41-50 years, 16.10 per cent from 51-60 years, 10.90 per cent from 61-70 years, and 5.90 per cent among 70 years or above.
An analysis for Covid deaths shows that 0.1 per cent fatalities were in the age group 0-14 years, 1.4 per cent in age group 15-30 years, 4 per cent in age group 31-40 years, 12 per cent in age group 41-50 years, 22.6 per cent in age group 51-60 years, the maximum 30.2 per cent in age group 61-70 years, closely followed by 29.8 per cent deaths in age group 70 or above.
Dr KK Talwar, Punjab government’s health advisor and Covid-19 expert committee head, said that the reason why they advised the state government to shut down the schools and colleges in state was to break the chain among youngsters as at least 30 per cent of fresh cases were among the persons aged 30 or less. “We cannot say that the UK strain affects youngsters aged 20 or less only. When we recommended shutting down of schools and colleges in the state in March when cases had begin to surge again, nearly 25-30 per cent cases were from 30 or less age group. And some positive result is here to see. It was expected that Covid cases might peak to 4,000-5,000 a day in April in Punjab but cases have now somewhat stabilized to around 2,900-3,000 a day in first week of April.”