Solan, one of the four border districts, which have become the hotspots of corona infection, has reported 144 fresh cases of which 18 are from Pine Grove School alone.
This comes after Dalhousie Public School — a leading residential school in Chamba district — reported 122 cases, of which 99 are students and 23 staff members.
In another development, six-time former Chief Minister Virbhadra Singh, 86, who is also fondly called “Raja Sahib’ in Himachal Pradesh, tested positive for Covid-19 on Monday.
In Solan, two of these students said to be close relatives of Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, have also reached Shimla and tested positive on arriving here. Both are under home isolation together at “Oak-Over, the chief minister’s official residence.
The district officials are tight-lipped about the exact number of students. Solan deputy commissioner KC Chaman said of the 18 cases at the school, four cooks, a few teachers and staff members apart from students.
“We have taken the samples of all the people associated with the school done a detailed contact tracing as part of the Covid protocol,” he said, adding that an isolation facility has been created for the positive patients and a medical team is monitoring their health on a regular basis,” he added.
What is worrying the administration is the fact that a few students who returned home after the district administration declared the area as a containment zone, have also tested positive.
Four teachers at another school at Barotiwala have also tested positive. They were travelling every day to school from Chandigarh.
After the incident, the district authorities have taken fresh measures to keep a close watch on all the residential schools. The managements of the residential schools have asked the parents to bring RT-PCR negative reports along.
“The students are also being kept in isolation for a few days before they are allowed to mix,” he said.
Solan has 22 containment zones, including some industrial units at Baddi-Brotiwala, Nalagarh and Arki areas where two cement plants are also located.
The situation in other districts such as Kangra, Una and Sirmaur is equally worrying with numbers rising every day.
Rajeev Sharma, secretary (education), said all schools, including private and government, have been closed till April 21. It’s the duty of the deputy commissioners to ensure that the school managements strictly follow the guidelines issued by the government.
“The boarding schools have a greater responsibility to ensure that their staff and employees, especially those attending the students in the residential areas, take utmost care to avoid any kind of infection,” he said.
The government, he said he will review the situation on April 21 to take a call if the schools and colleges should remain closed for a few days more as a precaution.
But those employees on examinations duties for class 10 and 12 are being allowed.
Yet the biggest spurt of the day was in Kangra district where 250 positive cases, of which 40 at a flour mill, were reported. Una recorded 90 fresh cases.
Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur, who spoke to the elected panchayat representatives and gram pradhans, said the virus was spreading at a fast pace. “This is my biggest concern,” he said.
“During the last 45 days, the state has reported 10,690 new Covid cases. The number of deaths has also increased rapidly. Over 120 deaths were reported in the state during the last 45 days,” the chief minister said.
Back in Shimla, the Covid-19 test was done on Virbhadra Singh on Monday following his son and MLA from Shimla (rural) Vikramaditya Singh testing positive a day before.
Asked about the treatment line for Virbhadra Singh, Dr Raj said, “ We will take a call after doctors on Covid duty examine his health parameters.”
Senior doctors at IGMC Hospitals admitted that former CM’s age and comorbidities are certainly worrying factors.
Only last month, the former chief minister had taken the first dose of vaccine at local Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Hospital.
Medical officials believe that it could be because of his son testing positive that infection spread to the veteran Congress leader.
Vikramaditya Singh had campaigned in the Mandi Municipal Corporation elections.
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