At least 1,500 police personnel and an equal number of their family members or contacts have tested positive for COVID-19 over the last couple of months.
In Chennai city alone, over 830 personnel, including four IPS officers, have been infected. Many of them are still undergoing treatment in hospitals or are under home quarantine, police sources said.
On Saturday, the Joint Commissioner of Police (JCP), Chennai South, and the Inspector of Police, Royapuram, tested positive for COVID-19 in Chennai. The JCP had been handling three police districts, including Adyar, T. Nagar and St. Thomas Mount. A senior police officer said that the test results returned positive for COVID-19.
Earlier, Additional Commissioner of Police, North, and three Deputy Commissioners of Police — for T. Nagar, Anna Nagar and Mylapore — had tested positive.
The personnel deployed on front-line duties, mostly vehicle checks, crowd regulation and routine police station duties, had come into contact with infected persons who were asymptomatic. Dozens of ministerial staff working at the police headquarters and in cities/districts had also got infected.
“This happened in spite of the police having been provided with adequate face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers. They had also been given immunity-boosting medicines. In most cases, family members or close contacts of the personnel also got infected,” a senior police official said.
DGP J.K. Tripathy said that at least 25% of the one lakh-plus force had been kept on standby. The reserve force will be deployed during exigencies. Adequate care was being provided to the infected personnel, and a majority of them had recovered and returned to work. A portal had been created to update, in real time, the details of COVID-19-infected persons at the police headquarters, he said.
The Tamil Nadu government recently announced that members of the police force who test positive for COVID-19 would be provided treatment at the State’s expense and an ex gratia of ₹2 lakh.
“Police personnel are on the front line, and more than 50% of the cases have been reported among those deployed in containment areas. Of the 833 personnel who were affected by the disease, 350 have recovered and rejoined duty. Every day, 20-30 personnel are rejoining duty,” City Police Commissioner A.K. Viswanathan said.
As many as 184 police personnel are in institutional quarantine centres like the one in IIT-Madras, while 271 are in home quarantine and 325 personnel have rejoined duty following treatment in hospitals.
“There is no staff shortage, and the city police has more than 18,000 personnel,” Mr. Viswanathan said.