Tamil Nadu

People haven’t realised how virulent COVID-19 is, says CM

Edappadi K. Palaniswami

Edappadi K. Palaniswami  

He will chair meetings with Collectors, medical experts today

The public are yet to realise the virulence of COVID-19, and have been playful, disregarding physical distancing and other norms, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said during a meeting with 12 coordination teams at the Secretariat on Tuesday. “They don't seem to learn from news reports from the U.S., Italy and Spain, where the death tolls have been high,” he said.

“Despite our advice, members of the public are refusing to abide by the rules and are being playful about it. They do not realise the virulence of this disease..,” Mr. Palaniswami said in his opening remarks during a meeting with IAS and IPS officers. The challenge in ensuring physical distancing was primarily seen in vegetable markets in Municipal Corporations like Chennai, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchi, he said.

Noting that people were watching on TV and reading newspaper reports of people dying in the U.S., Italy and Spain due to COVID-19, the CM said, "Initially, people there [in the worst-affected countries] did not realise the severity of the disease. But after they started following the guidelines laid down by the government, the number of deaths declined."

A senior officer present at the meeting said the CM had indicated that the urban centres were proving to be a challenge, unlike rural areas, where the lockdown rules were being fully complied with.

“The spread has declined in Italy and Spain and, according to media reports, the lockdown has been relaxed in those countries,” he pointed out. "But our people are not following [the rules]. We are in the initial stage [of the pandemic]. If the public extend their cooperation to the steps being taken by the government, the spread of the disease could be contained easily. Otherwise, even if all other countries contain the spread, we will not be able to do it. So, people should realise the virulence of the disease and follow the rules. Police and Local Administration departments have been carrying out street campaigns to create awareness," the CM said. He also instructed the authorities to assign less tedious tasks to police personnel who were over 55 years of age.

Question time

Multiple officers who were present at the meeting pointed out that it was unusual, with the CM specifically putting across questions to the department secretaries. "Usually, the secretaries make presentations, and then there would be some time for questions. But on Tuesday, the CM asked the officers specific questions, and only after getting answers did he allow them to make presentations. He bombarded nearly every officer with questions,” a senior officer said.

The CM asked questions on a wide range of topics including the methods being adopted by various departments to ensure physical distancing, whether the cash assistance of ₹1,000 and dry rations for unorganised sector workers were reaching the beneficiaries, and specific ways for exiting the lockdown.

"Looks like the CM got specific questions prepared by a team of officials, who might have framed questions based on media, police, intelligence and politicians. The questions and answers and presentations went on for about three hours," another officer said.

‘Mood for opening’

A senior officer said there was a "mood for opening" among the top officials, wherever possible, of course only in areas that were not in containment zones and red spots. "There has been no talk so far on extending the complete lockdown in five Corporations and areas around Chennai after April 29. As for what happens after May 3, the expert panel will decide," the official said.

The CM is scheduled to chair video-conference meetings with all District Collectors and medical and public health experts at the Secretariat on Wednesday.

Deputy CM O. Panneerselvam, Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar, Revenue Minister R.B. Udhayakumar and Chief Secretary K. Shanmugam, Director General of Police J.K. Tripathy and other senior officials were present at the meeting on Tuesday.

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Printable version | May 30, 2020 4:22:51 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/tamil-nadu/people-havent-realised-how-virulent-covid-19-is-says-cm/article31458061.ece

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