Tamil Nadu

‘Consider imposing lockdown on May 1, 2’

CHENNAI, 11/04/2008: Madras High Court buildings in Chennai on April 11, 2008. Photo: V. Ganesan  

The Madras High Court on Monday suggested that the State government could impose a complete lockdown not just on May 2 when the Election Commission of India (ECI) planned to count the votes polled for the Assembly election in Tamil Nadu but also on May 1 to arrest the spread of COVID-19 and curb the movement of vehicles other than those involved in counting and related activities.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy wrote: “If necessary, the State may consider imposing a lockdown on May 1, which is traditionally a holiday, and again on May 2, a Sunday, and only allow the movement of vehicles needed for counting and related purposes, apart from emergency vehicles. If an announcement in such regard is made well in advance, say by April 28, 2021, ordinary citizens may have sufficient notice.”

The first Division Bench made the suggestion while passing interim orders on a suo motu public interest litigation (PIL) petition taken up by the court last week to monitor the preparedness of the State government to fight the raging second wave of COVID-19. Advocate-General Vijay Narayan and Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan apprised the court of the measures taken so far by the State.

After hearing them out, the court directed the State government to monitor and control the prices of drugs such as Remdesivir, rates charged for admissions to private hospitals and prices of oxygen as well as vaccines.

The court took note that some private stockists were reportedly sourcing the drugs from Maharashtra and Gujarat and selling them in the black market at exorbitant rates, without insisting upon prescriptions, lung congestion reports and so on. The court recorded the submission of the Health Secretary that squads had already been formed to conduct raids and initiate action against black marketeers.

The A-G said the Centre had allocated only 59,000 vials of Remdesivir to Tamil Nadu till April 30, as against the pending orders for 2.5 lakh vials. The State had represented that the supply should be based on the number of active cases in each State. Further, the government had set up an outlet in Kilpauk, Chennai, to sell the drug at cost price to private hospitals as well as patients, on the production of necessary medical records.

Pointing out that not all patients would require such drugs, the judges said the relatives of COVID-19 patients sometimes panicked and attempted to procure drugs from the black market. They directed the government to widely publicise the “dos and don’ts” in the media so that people got to understand that not all COVID-19 patients required hospitalisation and drugs. The court also impressed upon eschewing VIP culture in allotting hospital beds.

Earlier, the A-G said Tamil Nadu had been conducting over 1.1 lakh RT-PCR tests every day and that it had so far tested 2.17 crore samples, the highest in the country. Of the samples tested, 10.51 lakh (3.94%) had returned positive and 9.43 lakh patients had been discharged from hospitals after treatment so far, which meant that 90% patients had got treated completely.

Stating that so far, 13,395 deaths had been reported in the State due to COVID-19, the A-G said the death rate was 1.2% of the positive cases. He attributed the low mortality rate to early identification, intensive testing and better hospital care. He said 263 RT-PCR testing centres were functioning in 69 government hospitals and 194 private facilities were also spread across the State for testing.

About 90% RT-PCR tests were being done only in government testing centres and Tamil Nadu was the only State to do so, he said.

On the availability of vaccines, the court was told that the Centre had so far supplied 55,03,590 Covishield and 10,82,130 Covaxin doses to the State and that 52,51,820 doses had been administered to eligible persons as on April 24. .

Mr. Narayan said the oxygen storage capacity in government institutions had been increased from 395 to 882 tonnes. Private hospitals too had increased their oxygen storage capacity to 1,167 tonnes and it was the second highest in the country, he added. He said the current requirement of oxygen in the State had increased to 310 tonnes a day, and therefore, the Chief Minister had requested the Centre not to divert oxygen to other States.

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Printable version | Jun 15, 2021 12:14:45 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/consider-imposing-lockdown-on-may-1-2/article34418431.ece

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