The state government in Tamil Nadu announced the extension of lockdown till June 30 with several relaxations on May 31 even as the cases of COVID-19 continue to surge in the state. However, the extent of shock has come down, as everyone is expecting a new high every day. With companies and industries permitted to function in the non-containment zones, the numbers are expected to increase further in the state.
Police personnel, health workers, secretariat and airport staff continue to contract the viral infection, increasing the concerns over the spread of the pandemic. The death of a 17-year-old female due to COVID-19, the youngest to succumb so far, has raised more apprehensions.
The Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) legislator J Anbazhagan continues to remain critical and is in ventilator support after testing positive for COVID-19.
WEEK OF RECORDS
The last seven days broke records of the number of daily cases, almost every day. The five continuous days from May 31 registered more than 1,000 cases. The steep hike took the total positive cases from 19,372 on May 28 to 27,256 on June 4. The one week period witnessed a massive increase of 7,884 cases, the highest so far. The previous seven day period had added 5,405 cases.
After several demands from the health experts, the number of tests also increased over the last two days. The highest ever testing per day, 16,447 was recorded on June 4. The number of testing facilities is also being increased with 74 labs.
The DMK legislator from Chepauk-Triplicane in Chennai, J Anbazhagan became the first lawmaker to contract the infection in the state. He was actively involved in the relief activities initiated by the party, but the source of infection remains unknown. The contract tracing remains a challenge, unaddressed by the administration, leaving space for more infections in the city.
CHENNAI CONTINUES TO PILE CASES
The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) finds its hands full as the number keeps mounting. There is no dearth of traffic in the city, as everything is close to normal, but for the public transport. The last two days, June 3 and 4 accounted for more than 1,000 cases. The total cases in the city have risen to 18,693 till June 4, with an addition of 5,931 cases in the last seven days.
The number of deaths in the city is another disturbing factor. Of the total 220 deaths reported from the state, 157 deaths are from the city.
Disputes over the number of deaths exist with few media houses accusing the government of under-reporting the deaths, particularly in the slum areas in the northern part of Chennai.
The Royapuram, Tondiarpet and Teynampet zones top the table with highest cases, with 3,388, 2,261 and 2,136 cases, respectively. The continuing surge comes in for criticism as the containment measures have proved hardly effective.
AIRPORT OFFICE CLOSED
The infection also affected the staff of airport, secretariat, railways, police and healthcare. The Chennai airport’s operational offices were shut down after two of the staff tested positive. Two doctors from Vellore tested positive, while a total of 401 police personnel, including IPS officers have tested positive so far in the GCC.
The staff of the secretariat are more concerned now, after as many as 23 of their colleagues tested positive. The results of few IAS officers are also awaited. The staff association has demanded to reduce the number of staff along with exemption for special cases.
FEE CAP FIXED FOR PRIVATE HOSPITALS
With the cases continuing to increase and government hospitals running out of beds, the private hospitals are poaching in for profits. After massive outrage over excess charges, the government has come up with a cap on treatments in private hospitals. This again has raised concerns as the cost is highly unaffordable for the vast majority of the population.
The new announcement has literally endorsed the loot of the private hospitals. The minimum amount prescribed for a mild to moderate symptomatic patient has been fixed as Rs 2,31,000 for ten days along with an additional fee of Rs 9,600 per day for other charges.
The charges for severe symptomatic patients have been fixed at Rs 4,41,000 for seventeen days plus Rs 9,600 per day towards doctors, staff quarantine and food expenses.The government later announced that the treatment for COVID-19 would be covered under the Chief Minister’s Insurance scheme.
The hardships for the poor and the marginalised are set to continue as the lack of income and the threat of infection along with the cost factor, looming large. The emphasis should be on strengthening the public health system, rather than endorsing the plunder of the private hospitals.