As the COVID-19 pandemic brings the whole country to a standstill and a 21-day countrywide lockdown has been enforced since midnight of March 24-25, Tamil Nadu, too, has been observing strict measures to control the spread of this pandemic. NewsClick brings to you a round-up of the developments this week.
MEDICAL WORKFORCE INCREASED
With the increasing panic over the spread of COVID-19, the Tamil Nadu government has recruited 530 doctors, 1,000 nurses and 1,508 lab technicians. The appointments have been made through the Medical Recruitment Board (MRB) to meet the medical requirements in the wake of the pandemic. New recruits have been advised to join duty in their respective native districts within three days after receiving the appointment order. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisami has also announced 200 more ambulances to the fleet across the state with immediate effect.
The total number of positive cases in Tamil Nadu now stands at 40 by Saturday afternoon, while 277 persons are in isolation wards in hospitals and 122 persons are in quarantine facilities. Meanwhile, the first exclusive government hospital for the disease in Tamil Nadu has been set up at Omandur Medical College with a capacity of 500 beds.
TESTING REMAINS LOW
As the state braces to overcome the pandemic in COVID-19, the lack of transparency and lower number of tests are raising severe concerns. Lack of testing facilities in government medical colleges, including Kanyakumari Medical College and Hospital has added to the panic. Five people have died in Kanyakumari, while the results of the deceased are yet to be published.
It has also been reported from other medical colleges about the lack of N95 masks for staff carrying out swab tests for the patients under isolation. In certain cases, samples were not even collected from those who died of respiratory issues.
The setting up of labs in government medical colleges is an urgent requirement, which the government continues to delay. With only around 4,000 ventilators ready, the outcome in the event of a community spread is alarming.
WITH NO PROTECTIVE GEARS, SANITATION WORKERS UNDER THREAT
Even as the coronavirus crisis looms large over the state, more than 2,500 sanitation workers, also dubbed as ‘Swachh Ambassadors’, from Trichy Corporation continue to work without protective gear. They are exposed to different types of wastes, with many people under home quarantine. The workers allege that the administration has not provided even the regular materials including glove, shovel, waste basket and uniforms for the past two years.
With more than 1,400 workers belonging to the self help groups, the contractualisation of workforce has also taken a toll on the workers. They are highly underpaid and lack job security. Read More
MINOR RELIEF ANNOUNCED AMID COVID-19 CRISIS
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palanisamy has announced a slew of relief measures in the state Assembly to meet the economic needs of people during the 21-day lockdown period. The relief measures include Rs 1,000 cash and free ration for all family ration card holders for April, Rs 1,000 cash and 15 kg rice, 1 kg dal and 1 litre cooking oil for construction workers and auto drivers, 2 days additional wages for workers under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
The other unorganised and general workers excluded from any of the welfare boards or registrations continue to suffer for the lack of relief measures for them. Various unions and organisations have demanded the governments to consider the plight of these workers. Read More
2.5 LAKH CASHEW WORKERS FEEL THE HEAT
The 21-day nationwide lockdown has left close to two and a half lakh workers from cashew nut factories across Tamil Nadu economically stranded. A majority of the industry’s workforce – more than 90% -- are women who work on a daily-wage basis. Now, that the sector has come to a grinding halt following the announcement of the lockdown, these workers are left without jobs and income. Though the Rs 1,000 relief amount for workers registered with the welfare board is expected to benefit the workers, those enrolled in the Provident Fund (PF) scheme are not eligible for the benefit.
The problem is compounded by the lack of a Cashew Corporation, which has been a long pending demand of the workers and needs immediate attention of the government. Read More
SANITATION WORKER THRASHED BY FAMILY
While the sanitation workers continue to risk their lives during the COVID-19 pandemic, a woman worker was allegedly manhandled in the state’s capital. A video of a sanitation worker being physically harassed by members of the same family for allegedly not cleaning the outside of the house has become viral on social media. The incident took place on Friday, March 20, in Chennai's Pallikaranai area. Three people were seen kicking and beating the woman while another woman ran away from the scene, towards the garbage collection tricycle out of fear. An FIR has been filed against the offenders with the Pallikaranai police under Sections 294(b) (obscenity) and 353 (assault or criminal force to deter public servant from discharge of his duty) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) and Section 4 of the Tamil Nadu Prohibition of Harassment of Women Act.
In her complaint, the woman states that she was cleaning Meru street in Pallikarani locality along with a coworker when 60-year-old Anand hurled abuses at them for not cleaning outside his house.