With Chennai remaining Tamil Nadu’s COVID-19 epicentre, registering 176 of the 203 fresh cases on Friday, the State government chose to pay focused attention to the capital city, appointing senior IAS officer J. Radhakrishnan as Special Nodal Officer to coordinate issues relating to the pandemic. Five senior IPS officers will support him.
With the 176 fresh cases, the city’s tally of COVID-19 cases surpassed the 1,000-mark.
The State’s COVID-19 case count stands at 2,526* (1,670 men and 856 women), of which 1,183 are active cases.
Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar said the maximum number of samples were lifted in Chennai. “We lifted 3,200 samples in the city, of which 176 returned positive for COVID-19,” he added.
A 98-year-old man, who was admitted to the Government Medical College Hospital, Omandurar Estate, died due to COVID-19 at 10.20 a.m. on Friday despite receiving intensive care at the hospital. This took the COVID-19 toll in the State to 28, he said.
Among the 203 new cases (117 men and 86 women), Chengalpattu accounted for eight cases, while Tiruvallur had six.
There were three patients in Madurai, two each in Kancheepuram and Thanjavur, and one each in Ariyalur, Cuddalore, Dindigul, Karur, Nagapattinam and Villupuram.
Mr. Radhakrishnan, who is currently Principal Secretary and Commissioner for Revenue Administration, Disaster Management and Mitigation, told The Hindu : “We will try our best to work hard to ensure that we are able to get to a COVID-19-free Chennai. We will work with the entire team and the common people and work on how to address this.”
He said suggestions and inputs from officers will be considered to tackle the spread of COVID-19. A former Health Secretary, he will be supported by senior IPS officers Mahesh Kumar Agarwal (in charge of Chennai North Zone), Abash Kumar (East Zone), Amaresh Pujari (South Zone), Abhay Kumar Singh (West Zone) and K. Bhavaneeswari (Chennai suburbs).
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As on Friday, Chennai’s cumulative tally of COVID-19 cases stood at 1,082, while Chengalpattu accounted for 86 cases. Another eight children, including a two-year-old, have tested positive in the State. So far, a total of 150 children aged 0 to 12, 2,110 persons in the age group of 13 to 60 and 266 persons above 60 years have tested positive for COVID-19. The number of primary persons for whom investigation was under process was 94 in the day’s count.
With another 54 persons discharged from hospitals, the total number of persons discharged across the State is 1,312, according to the bulletin issued by the Directorate of Public Health and Preventive Medicine.
The State’s recovery rate of 54% was the highest in the country, while the mortality rate was maintained at 1.2%, he said.
The Health Minister said that the State has so far tested 1,29,363 samples, accounting for 14% of the total samples (9,02,684) tested in the country till now. “Today alone, we have tested 9,615 samples,” he said.
“We have been increasing the testing facilities in a phased manner. All laboratories are functioning in three shifts, round the clock,” he said. He added that a good number of samples were being tested in all districts. “In Chennai, we have so far tested 33,819 persons, while 6,372 persons were tested in Coimbatore, 6,081 persons in Salem, and 5,450 persons in Madurai. In Dharmapuri, which is in the orange zone, we have tested 2,174 persons. Similarly, we have tested nearly 1,500 persons in Pudukottai and more than 1,000 persons in Krishnagiri which is in the green zone,” he said.
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The population will differ in each district, he added. “We are testing anybody — be it primary, secondary contacts, persons in containment zones, front line workers and healthcare workers — with the smallest connection with COVID-19 patients,” he said.
The committee comprising experts from the National Institute of Epidemiology, senior infectious diseases specialists and representatives of medical associations also recommended increased testing that will fetch data based on which the government can take a decision, he added. “We are immediately testing persons with common cold, cough or fever. This will help us detect cases. Through this, we can admit positive patients and stop further transmission. We have intensified the strategy of preventing further transmission,” he said.
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“We have readied mobile vehicles for testing in Chennai. We are maintaining a safe zone, and are ensuring that transmission does not occur outside the safe zone,” he said.
Testing of all persons with Influenza-like Illness and Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI) continued, Dr. Vijayabaskar said.
“There are 703 containment zones in the State. We are closely monitoring all pregnant women in these containment zones. Based on their expected date of delivery, we are making arrangements to test them a week ahead,” he said.
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He said that based on the recommendations of the medical expert team and various committees, the Chief Minister would decide on the lockdown at a Cabinet meeting scheduled to be held on Saturday. “Special teams have been deployed in each zone in Chennai. We have rapid response teams and special officers. People need not panic but should extend their full cooperation for the efforts being taken by the government,” he said.
One more private laboratory — Meenakshi Labs in Madurai — was approved for COVID-19 testing. With this, there are a total of 34 testing facilities in the government and 12 facilities in the private sector. As on date, 2,013 persons with suspected symptoms of COVID-19 were admitted to hospitals. A total of 33,184 persons were in home quarantine and 40 in government quarantine facilities.
(* This is inclusive of two deaths cross-notified to other States and one patient who died after testing negative for the infection)