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With active COVID-19 cases back on the rise in Chennai, more tests advised in West and South zones

With active COVID-19 cases back on the rise in Chennai, more tests advised in West and South zones

CHENNAI: After a gradual fall in active COVID-19 cases over the past two months, Chennai is again witnessing a rise for the last four days.

The city after almost two months saw the number of daily cases falling below 1000 in the second week of August but after just three days, the cases were back in four figures. For the last four days, there have been around 1200 daily cases.

This also resulted in the rise of active cases after they had come down from a high of 24,890 on July 5 to 10,868 on August 12 due to the intense lockdown and containment measures. But since then, they have risen to 12,256 on August 19.

While Chennai was seemingly on the road of recovery, the daily positivity rate too is now close to 11 percent again, just when the city is slowly opening up for economic activities.

Public health experts say that the civic body may need to improvise its containment strategies as now the economic activities have almost opened up fully.

Dr Prabhdeep Kaur, Deputy Director, National Institute of Epidemiology, said that testing could be ramped up in the zones where there is a rise in cases.

“COVID-19 spread began in north Chennai and moved to other places. Testing must now be ramped up at the West and South zones of the corporation,’’ Dr Kaur said, adding that there must be intensified surveillance in places where there were fewer cases in the early stages.

According to the Chennai Corporation’s data, Ambattur, Kodambakkam and Adyar zones are showing a growth in active cases. These zones including Valsaravakkam are the only ones to have more than 1000 active cases at the moment.

Dr Kaur said that improving workplace surveillance is a way forward for effective containment of the spread. “Workplaces can appoint designated officers to record symptoms and temperature using thermal scanners and report to the civic body,’’ she added.

Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan said that the government would implement workplace intervention containment strategies by surveillance and screening to effectively identify positive cases.

“We had a meeting with all officials today and we had discussed continuous focus on screening at places of public gathering, markets, industries and other workplaces,’’ he told The New Indian Express.

Dr Radhakrishnan said that special focus is being given to Ambattur and Kodambakkam Corporation zones and also the districts bordering the city.

“We can’t comment on the increase in cases based on day to day numbers as it may keep varying. Overall, the cases are still below 1200 which reflects the success of containment strategies,’’ he said.

While a positivity rate of five percent or below is said to be an indicator of the spread being contained, some experts believe in reality it can’t be taken as a yardstick. Chennai’s positivity rate at the moment is close to 11 percent.

“It is very hard to bring down positivity below five when the spread is intense, that too in a densely populated country. Mortality rate is a good yardstick to measure containment strategies and TN has a very low mortality rate,’’ said virologist Dr Jacob John.

Chennai has already had a lot of infections and it is now slowly becoming a less dreaded disease, he said.

Thousands of people get e-passes to travel to Chennai after rules relaxed

Thousands of people get e-passes to travel to Chennai after rules relaxed

Ever since the Tamil Nadu government announced that the state would provide e-passes to everyone submitting Aadhaar or ration card details, more have started traveling between districts. Toll plazas too have been witnessing a rush from Monday and reverse migration was reported in Chennai.

On Monday, more than 13,000 people received epasses to travel to Chennai. According to the data released by Greater Chennai Corporation, GCC approved a whopping 13,826 epasses on August 18. The Corporation rejected only 27 applications or 0.19% of the total number of requests. On Tuesday, the Corporation received 18,853 epass requests and accepted 18,823 epass applications.

Following this, Municipal Administration and Water Supplies Department Secretary Harmander Singh on Wednesday ordered that efforts should be intensified to isolate and monitor people entering Chennai. Zonal officers have been asked collect the details of people especially workers of industrial estates and send it ro Corporation officials to monitor the quarantine status of the people.

Most number of people have applied passes under the stranded category. Around 4,131 people who applied for epasses under stranded category have received the passes till now.

In contrast, between August 1 and August 18, the Chennai Corporation had accepted just 82,401 epasses and rejected 45,085 passes.

Mixed reaction from transport workers

The decision of the government to provide epass for all has received mixed response from drivers in the transport sector.

Stating that the number of people entering Tamil Nadu has increased, Manoharan of Tamil Nadu Lorry Drivers Association said, “As soon as the government started providing epasses for all, the number of people visiting other places have increased. From the beginning, since we were driving lorry for essential service, we were not stopped from providing our service. So we have not faced any issues like rejection of epasses. But I must say that the crowd has increased in the toll plazas.”

As of Monday till 6 pm, the Tamil Nadu government issued 1.2 lakh epasses for all inter-district travel.

Despite the rush, the decision of the government to provide passes received appreciation from tempo drivers who were living without a source of income for the past six months. A tempo lorry driver Bharathi of Srirangam said, “Since epasses are being issued to everyone who applies, we have started receiving more trips. We are submitting the Aadhaar details and we are getting the approval within a few minutes.”

“We do not get trips like before because people are traveling only for essential services. However, the banks and financiers are already forcing us to pay the due amount. So the government should take efforts to help us,” he added