Coronavirus | Step up pace of testing, health experts urge CM
‘Surge in cases in Chennai no reason for worry’
Notwithstanding the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Chennai and other parts of the State, the Tamil Nadu government must continue to increase the pace of testing, medical and public health experts told Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami on Thursday.
They said that there was no need to worry about the surge in cases in Chennai.
The experts reiterated that the lockdown should be relaxed in a phased manner. Addressing the media after their meeting with the Chief Minister, which lasted around two-and-a-half hours, Dr. Prabhdeep Kaur of the National Institute of Epidemiology (ICMR) said that testing should not be reduced, and should rather be increased.
Increased testing was the “big achievement” of Tamil Nadu which, she said, was conducting the “highest number” of tests in the country. “It is even more than many other countries,” she added.
The ramped-up testing provided a “big advantage” in mapping the spread, based on which containment strategies were being planned, she said.
“The more we test, the more we will be able to realise the [extent of the] spread of the disease. Irrespective of the number of cases being reported, we have to continue testing. We should not be afraid of the increasing number of cases,” she said.
The focus should be on testing those with symptoms. Data showed that about half of the patients were taken to a hospital within three days of their showing symptoms, which was to be sustained and improved upon, she said.
Though there were more cases in Tamil Nadu, the number of deaths was relatively low, which was a “big achievement”, Dr. Kaur said. The contact tracing exercise was a success, she said, adding that this was how the issue of the first cluster was settled. Data showed that, on an average, there were 20 contacts for each case. The focus had to be on surveillance, testing, contact tracing, isolation and quarantine, she said.
‘No need to panic’
“In a pandemic situation, there will be waves, and there is no need to panic when a wave hits,” she said. She, however, added that community participation in efforts to contain the spread of the virus was necessary, by following physical distancing norms and wearing masks.
Dr. Guhanandam, another expert on the panel, said, “There is no need to worry about the increasing number of cases in Chennai. It will help us deal with the situation at the earliest. It will help in dousing the fire at the earliest.” He said that the steps being taken by the State in accordance with the instructions of the Chief Minister had been satisfactory and useful.
He said that all those returning to Tamil Nadu from other States were to be quarantined and tested. He insisted that those with non-communicable diseases like diabetes and blood pressure and cardiac issues, those undergoing treatment for cancer and HIV, and the elderly, had to remain under quarantine. World Health Organisation’s Chief Scientist Soumya Swaminathan also attended the meeting via video-conference from Geneva.