COVID-19: Chennai has two quarantine centres

Each of the facilities has 50 beds, and these can be increased if necessary, Health Department officials said

March 20, 2020 01:13 pm | Updated 01:13 pm IST - CHENNAI

Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar inspected the quarantine facility in Tambaram

Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar inspected the quarantine facility in Tambaram

Chennai now has two quarantine facilities for COVID-19, one at the Institute of Public Health (IPH), Poonamallee and one at the Government Hospital of Thoracic Medicine (GHTM) at Tambaram Sanatorium. A 50-bedded quarantine facility has been set up at the new outpatient building at GHTM, and the capacity could be increased to up to 100, officials of the Health Department said.

As of now, passengers arriving from COVID-19 affected countries and who are asymptomatic are being quarantined at these centres. IPH, a training centre for the Health Department, has around 50 beds. An isolation ward has been created at the Tambaram Government Hospital (Chromepet GH) as well.

App to track contacts

The Health Department is all set to use technology to track down the contacts of patients who test positive for coronavirus disease (COVID-19). The Department, with help from the police, will put to use an app to trace contacts and alert them.

When persons test positive for COVID-19, contact tracing is one of the crucial tasks on hand for the Health Department. The State so far has three COVID-19 patients.

Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar said till now, the contact tracing of patients, who had tested positive for COVID-19 was done manually by health teams. For the second patient, who travelled from Delhi to Chennai and stayed in the city, the department had traced 41 of his contacts.

“All the work for tracing the contacts was done manually. Now, we are going to use technology. An app has been developed, and we will start tracing the contacts using mobile numbers,” he told The Hindu .

Superintendent of Police of Sivaganga Rohith Nathan, who had demonstrated the app, has helped the Department in setting it up in the State control room. This can track the movement of a person using mobile tower locations. Officials would be able to trace wherever the patient had moved and get the nearby contacts, thereby tracking all contacts and alerting them for home quarantine and testing, officials said.

The Minister, in the last two days, has been maintaining that there is no community transmission of COVID-19 in the State. The three COVID-19 patients in the State had travelled from Muscat, Delhi and Ireland respectively, he said.

However, he added that officials were still working on finding out how the second patient was infected as he had no travel history to an affected country.

Screening activities

“So far, we have been concentrating on screening international passengers. Now, we are taking up screening at the domestic terminal. We started this on Wednesday by screening passengers from Kerala and Delhi. However, we have now extended the screening. We were told that there are nearly 16,000 passengers arriving in 160 fights and from now on, all should be screened,” he said.

As the second patient, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, arrived in Chennai in a train, the department has tightened screening at three major railway stations in the city -- Central, Egmore and Tambaram, while continuing to screen at the districts at the inter-State borders.

“We do not have community spread now, and when it happens, it will be a huge challenge. People should avoid travel for two weeks, and this is important to prevent community transmission. We are ready to manage any situation. We have isolation wards in medical college hospitals and quarantine facilities,” he said.

On whether the number of samples lifted for testing was enough, he said they were following guidelines laid down for testing. “As of now, a person should have a travel history to an affected country or State and have symptoms of cough, fever and difficulty in breathing for testing. The Indian Council of Medical Research that provides us reagents for testing has made it clear when we should lift samples,” he said.

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