Chennai’s peculiar trend in COVID-19

Officials believe that it is too early to assume that ‘the curve is getting flattened’

Published - July 23, 2020 12:15 am IST - CHENNAI

Chennai Corporation health worker collecting samples at a fever camp in Chetpet on April 21, 2020.

Chennai Corporation health worker collecting samples at a fever camp in Chetpet on April 21, 2020.

A gradual fall in Chennai’s tally of active cases of COVID-19, coupled with the persistent rise in the number of recovered cases, has made it clear that a different dynamic is at play here.

Senior officials of the Greater Chennai Corporation are not inclined to conclude that the peak is over, and say they would prefer to wait for some more time. There is an indication that the number of fresh cases may stabilise. However, the figure still remains over a 1,000 cases a day.

“The case count would have to show a steady decline,” Corporation Commissioner G. Prakash said.

Joint Commissioner (Health) P. Madhusudhan Reddy pointed out that in any instance of epidemiology, there will not be a single peak. The present phase could even be a “lull”, by which one should not assume that “the curve is getting flattened”, he said.

With the community poised to ramp up economic activity substantially in the coming weeks, testing capacity would likely have to increase.

At the same time, the infrastructure for testing people would have also improved substantially, as there would be more private laboratories and increased capacity at government laboratories, he added.

The officials were responding to the data compiled for six fortnights between May 12 and July 21. During the last fortnight (July 7-21), which coincided with the relaxation of the conditions of the “intense lockdown” in the city, the number of recovered cases continued to go up, registering a 57% rise, whereas the tally of active cases went down by 9,000 in absolute figures (-37%).

When asked why three zones — Anna Nagar, Teynampet and Kodambakkam — had a higher proportion of active cases than Royapuram and Tondiarpet during the last fortnight, Mr. Reddy said they constituted nearly a third of the city’s population, with each having 9 lakh to 10 lakh people.

“They are the highly populated zones of Chennai,” he said, adding that the cases were in proportion to their population.

Aggressive testing

“We are aggressively identifying cases,” the Joint Commissioner said, adding, “The cases are within our horizon. There is no cause for concern.” He expressed the hope that in a few weeks, Anna Nagar, Teynampet and Kodambakkam would show a downward trend.

The nature of settlement in the two zones in the northern part of the city, where people share a lot of common resources, is one of the key reasons for Royapuram and Tondiarpet initially recording a higher number of cases than other areas. “We did not omit any contact or symptomatic person from testing, which was another reason,” he added.

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