Govt. steps up efforts to tackle COVID-19

Safety masks are distributed to passengers at Puducherry airport on Wednesday. S.S. Kumar

Safety masks are distributed to passengers at Puducherry airport on Wednesday. S.S. Kumar   | Photo Credit: S_S_KUMAR

With more cases of suspected or confirmed COVID-19 being reported in neighbouring States — Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Kerala, that share cross-migration with Puducherry, the administration is ramping up its preparedness for potential COVID-19 admissions.

Isolation wards with ICU-level facilities have been opened at Jipmer, the Government Chest Diseases Hospital and six private medical colleges following a high-level meeting convened by Chief Minister V. Narayanasamy.

The Government has adopted a multi-pronged strategy to keep the virus at bay.

Various health agencies including the Health Department, Jipmer, government and private medical colleges and hospitals are working in accordance to a common protocol to prevent the spread of the disease, the Chief Minister told reporters.

“As foreigners account for 70% of the total tourists visiting Puducherry, we are keeping a close tab on the situation,” he said.

“We have kept on standby a combined capacity of 100 beds in isolation wards in public and private hospitals,” Chief Secretary Ashwani Kumar said.

According to a public advisory, those who have made an overseas trip are required to self-quarantine at home for a period of 14 days irrespective of whether they are sick or not and to report to a hospital if they develop any symptom.

The public has also been advised to avoid travel and overcrowded places and to adopt personal hygiene such as washing hands with soap frequently as a precautionary measure.

The Chief Secretary said he expected timely exchange of information from other States about travellers from abroad headed to the city.

The Health Department has set up a helpdesk at the airport to counsel inbound travellers in addition to similar desks at the main bus stand and railway station.

“At present, we have set up an eight-bedded isolation ward, which can be scaled up to a limited extent given constraints of space and manpower,” M. Vivekanandan, chief of Emergency Medicine, Jipmer, and nodal officer for coronavirus, said.

Unlike other contagious diseases, the threat from cross-infection in relation to the coronavirus is that unlike, say tuberculosis where we have a definitive treatment available in the eventuality of a transmission, no such protocol exists as of now for COVID-19, he added.

“While the good news is that all reported cases have been imported and we are not yet seeing a surge of infections, unless cases reported so far are quickly contained, we could be facing a more daunting challenge given the density of population and health infrastructure available here,” Dr. Vivekanandan said.

In fact, even the advisory to self-quarantine at home for those with a recent history of travelling abroad may not be practical given the relatively small size of dwelling units and the proximity to next-door neighbours, he pointed out.

The most important public interest message is to advise anyone with a travel history of visiting an overseas destination within the last one month and who has tell-tale signs of fever, cough and breathlessness, to contact the designated helpline (104). Even if one is not a traveller, there are precautions to be taken, especially if someone in the immediate circle has gone abroad.

Jipmer is one of the 50-odd laboratories in the country that has been equipped for testing for COVID-19. The roughly 15 throat swab samples referred from neighbouring districts of Tamil Nadu have been negative, the nodal officer said.

Open House suspended

Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Kiran Bedi has suspended Open House sessions for the public to air grievances as well as visitor’s hour and public appointments for a fortnight in compliance with public health and safety guidelines. As an interim measure, complainants can open house deposit petitions in the drop box kept at the Raj Nivas entrance.

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Printable version | Sep 26, 2020 5:20:22 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/puducherry/govt-steps-up-efforts-to-tackle-covid-19/article31044273.ece

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