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TN this Week: Daily COVID-19 Death Count Nears 300, State Struggles to Expand Healthcare

More than 200 people have died each day after succumbing to COVID-19 over the past week in Tamil Nadu. Many of these deaths are from a lack of timely medical support.
TN this Week: Daily COVID-19 Death Count Nears 300, State Struggles to Expand Healthcare

Image credit: Prakash R

The week Tamil Nadu witnessed a steady spike in COVID-19 cases and a higher retention of active cases. The state crossed the 30,000 fresh cases per day mark this week, with 31,892 cases being reported on May 14. According to reports, there was a spike of around 50,000 active cases in the seven-day period between May 8 and 14.

The death toll has also considerably increased in Tamil Nadu. Last Saturday there were 241 deaths reported in the state; within three days the number almost touched 300 on Tuesday when the reported number of deaths were 298, the highest from the state so far. However, the actual numbers are said to be far higher.

Image credit: Prakash R

Image credit: Prakash R

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The spike in COVID-19 cases and deaths has further strained the state’s resources, overwhelming the healthcare system and leaving healthcare professionals exhausted.

RUSH FOR OXYGEN, VACCINE AND REMDESIVIR

Hospitals and families of COVID-19 patients continued to scramble for supplies of lifesaving Oxygen this week as well. With the surge in the number of cases, the resultant number of patients requiring Oxygen support is on the rise. Private hospitals particularly face the crunch because the priority for Oxygen supply is being given to government-run hospitals. Read more

Image Courtesy: Lakshmi Kanth Bharathi. Outside Stanley Medical College Hospital, Chennai

Image Courtesy: Lakshmi Kanth Bharathi. Outside Stanley Medical College Hospital, Chennai

Demand for the drug Remdesivir has also gone up. Five days ago, Chief Minister M.K. Stalin wrote to Union Minister Piyush Goyal asking for 20,000 Remdesivir vials a day. There has been no response from Goyal so far.

To control an unmanageable number of people crowding around Kilpauk Medical College Hospital in Chennai, the Remdesivir counter was shifted to the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium.

In a statement issued on May 15, Stalin said the police have been ordered to book hoarders and black-marketeers of Remdesivir injection and those who sell Oxygen cylinders at a high price under the Goonda Act.

With the number of COVID-19 cases increasing and vaccine supply dwindling in Tamil Nadu, the state has finally cut down on the wastage of vials. For several weeks, the state topped the wastage chart with 8.33 per cent of jabs going down the drain. However, data released on May 8 showed that the wastage in the state had come down to 3.94 per cent. On May 14, 52,730  people took the vaccine, the number being 92,732 on May 15.

REPORTED DEATHS LOWER THAN ACTUAL NUMBERS

More than 200 people have died each day after succumbing to COVID-19 over the past week in Tamil Nadu. Many of these deaths are from a lack of timely medical support. With the extreme demand for and the resultant shortage of ventilators and Oxygen, not all patients receive these health-care facilities on time and people are seen hunting for them in hospital after hospital.

Image Courtesy: Lakshmi Kanth Bharathi

Image Courtesy: Lakshmi Kanth Bharathi

Many of the virus-related deaths are not even registered as deaths from COVID-19 complications.

Shanti (name changed), whose father passed away this week said “my father’s Oxygen level dropped below 50 and he died at home a day after he was discharged from the hospital. He was taken to the neighbourhood doctor who declared him dead. Given that the formalities for reporting a COVID-19 death were complicated, the doctor wrote that he died from a heat stroke.”

The under-reporting of COVID-19 deaths, however, is visible at crematoriums, where relatives have to wait for several hours to cremate their loved ones.

There are also those who die after being infected by the coronavirus but have comorbidities; these are not reported as COVID-19 deaths.

STATE INTENSIFIES LOCKDOWN

An all-party meeting led by CM Stalin on May 14 passed an unanimous resolution to intensify the ongoing lockdown in Tamil Nadu.

It was decided that an advisory committee comprising representatives of all parties in the state would make recommendations for control measures. All parties would extend their cooperation for relief work, and they would stop organising political events.

The following day, on May 15, renewed lockdown rules were announced.

The rules state that grocery shops, vegetable shops, fish and meat shops will be allowed to open only between 6 am and 10 am. E-commerce services will be permitted to operate from 2 pm till 6 pm.

According to the new rules, E-pass registration, which was mandatory for inter-state and international passengers, is now mandatory for inter-district passengers as well from May 17.

NEWLY ELECTED MLAS TAKE OATH

A total of 223 of the 234 newly-elected members took oath as legislators of the 16th Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly in Chennai on May 11. Ten members did not take the oath owing to personal and medical reasons.

Pro-tem Speaker K. Pitchandi commenced the first assembly session with all legislators submitting their certificates of election to the Assembly Secretary and taking oath as members of the House.

On May 10 the AIADMK chose former CM and party co-coordinator, Edappadi K. Palaniswami, as leader of the opposition in the Tamil Nadu legislative assembly. The decision came after much inner-party wrangling.

STALIN APPEALS TO TAMIL DIASPORA FOR FUNDS

On May 14 CM Stalin appealed to the Tamil diaspora to come forward and donate to the CM relief fund. He promised that the fund would be utilised only for measures undertaken to contain COVID-19 and that expenses would be placed before the public in a transparent manner.

Earlier in the week, Tamil film actors and brothers, Suriya and Karthi, and their father Sivakumar, met Stalin and donated Rs one crore towards COVID-19 relief. Actor Ajith contributed Rs 25 lakhs. Producer Soundarya Rajinikanth contributed Rs one crore as well.

On May 13, the CM wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi seeking suspension of GST for COVID-19 drugs and vaccines. His appeal has received no response as yet.

BIG FACTORIES FUNCTION DURING LOCKDOWN

Workers of Renault Nissan automobile manufacturing facility at Oragadam, which houses around 10,000 workers, and Wipro Infrastructure Engineering at Irungattukottai have approached the Madras High Court against the exemption granted by the state government to automobile and allied industries from the ongoing lockdown. Read more

A bench led by Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy said that it was up to the company to decide in the interest of their employees and not force the factory to remain open. It then adjourned the hearing to May 17.

FOUR KILLED IN REACTOR BLAST AT CUDDALORE

In a major industrial mishap, four persons were killed and 10 others injured after a reactor vessel blast at a pesticides manufacturing industry in Kudikadu at the SIPCOT industrial estate in Cuddalore on May 14.

AIRPORT AUTHORITY USES JAGGI’S STATUE

The Airports Authority of India used the image of a Jaggi Vasudev statue in its state quarantine guidelines as representative of the state. Its use created a stir on social media and news channels.

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MP Su Venkatesan wrote on Twitter: “We strongly condemn this and demand it be changed right away”.

A day later, the image was changed to that of the Madurai Meenakshi Amman Temple.

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