Curbs extended, case rise worries experts
Chief minister M K Stalin has announced further extension of lockdown for two weeks in Tamil Nadu, owing to marginal rise in Covid-19 cases in the state. The chief minister held a meeting with medical experts following which, the decision was made.
Religious places will remain closed from Friday to Sunday while schools for Class 9 to 12 can reopen from September 1 with 50 per cent capacity, the chief minister said.
Tamil Nadu reported 1985 new cases on Friday, taking the total positive cases to 37,494,317. On an average more than 155k people are being tested across the state. The fatalities increased to 34,260 in the state after 30 new deaths were reported.
Given the erratic increase in new cases, the state government also empowered district collectors to impose localised restrictions such as closing down markets and other crowded public places. “About five days ago we issued an alert to district officials to not take the increasing cases lightly even if it is marginal,” said health secretary J Radhakrishnan. “After 69 days of continuous decline we are seeing a mild upward trend now. The test positivity rate is concerning for us in at least 19 districts.”
The government has found sources of infections coming from big markets and streets adjacent to it, hospitals and weddings and funerals where norms aren’t followed. “Several people from other states have come to private hospitals for treatment since we have opened up and they’re staying in mansions which are dense and increasing the spread,” said a senior civic official in Greater Chennai Corporation who did not wish to be named.
Cases are marginally rising in Tamil Nadu which is worrying the state and experts alike. Tamil Nadu is among the eight states where the R-naught factor is on the rise, the Union government said earlier this week.
The R-naught value, which is the average number of people who can contract the infection from one person, is more than one in 18 districts out of the 37 districts in Tamil Nadu.
After chief minister M K Stalin held a meeting with experts on Friday, the state extended its lockdown by two more weeks, imposing closure of religious places from Friday to Sunday. But schools from classes 9 to 12 can reopen from September 1 with 50% capacity.
Tamil Nadu was only 3 fresh cases short of touching the 2000 mark a day ago. For the past week, cases have risen by 50 or 80 new infections each day. Chennai is usually the hotspot and peaks before the rest of the state but this time the capital city second with 196 cases on Thursday behind Coimbatore district which is reporting the most number of new cases with 220 cases on Thursday.
“If the cases are consistently increasing it means the R-naught is above one,” says deputy director of National Institute of Epidemiology, Dr Prabhdeep Kaur who was also part of the chief minister’s meeting. “We don’t know yet if this a temporary increase due to local clusters or a general transmission. That pattern will be clearer in a week.” The expert panel has advised the government to strengthen surveillance, detect clusters and improve testing in the western and central regions of Tamil Nadu.
The state has also increased vigil along the districts and points bordering Kerala which has still not weathered the second wave. Those who want to enter Tamil Nadu from Kerala have to submit either a negative RT-PCR test or evidence of double dosage of vaccination. “We are focusing on increasing vaccine coverage. It may be the only way to prevent another wave,” the health secretary said.