Chennai: The number of COVID-19 cases has surged in Tamil Nadu over the past four weeks with the government has put in more restrictions in place from April 10. Public health experts have called for a more professional and research-based approach to make people aware of ways to prevent themselves from pandemics.
The number of infections breached the 4,000 mark on April 8 after almost five months. With 25,896 cases in the seve- day period till April 8, the Directorate of Public Health (DPH) has sounded the alarm bells on the higher rate of increase in fresh infections.
Cases of infection among those aged 18 to 45 years is also a worrisome factor, which are 50% of the total infections, the health secretary said.
The lapses in maintaining COVID-19 protocols even before the recently ended election campaigns and the lack of sustained measures to contain the spread are considered among reasons for the rise in spread of the virus.
NEWS RESTRICTIONS IN PLACE
Under new restrictions from April 10, political and religious events will be banned, while industries and business establishments will be permitted to function only if these follow the standard operating procedures.
Though several restrictions, including reduced occupancy in cinemas, restaurants, recreation clubs and malls are back in place, the government has exempted liquor shops and bars from any restrictions.
A threat of another lockdown was looming large, “but the past experiences with lockdown has been poor and the effectiveness itself is much under question”, said Dr T Sundararaman of People’s Health Movement (PHM).
Welcoming the decision to prevent large gatherings and avoidable internal gatherings, Dr Sundararam said: “The focus should remain on testing, tracking and treating to prevent another spike in cases.”
‘EFFECTIVE HEALTH EDUCATION NEEDED’
The total COVID-19 infections in the state increased to 9,15,386 with a spike of 25,896 cases in the last 7 days. The number of active cases increased to 30,131 while on March 28 it was 13,070. The total casualties also mounted to 12,840.
Fresh cases in Chennai stood at 1,520 with 11,633 active cases and 2,59,320 total infections. The city accounts for 4,262 casualties due to the infections.
People in the age group of 18 to 45 are contracting the infection at a higher rate, with 50% of fresh infections belonging to this age group.
Several political leaders have contracted the infection in the state during the election campaign, including the general secretary of Dravida Munnetra kazhagam (DMK), Durai Murugan, who was vaccinated and member of Palriament, K Kanimozhi.
Several candidates in the recent elections, after testing positive for COVID-19, had to rely on online campaign.
Though government and health officials are claiming to have created enough awareness on maintaining the protocols to prevent the viral spread, the experts question the effectiveness of the programmes carried out.
“The major issue which needs attention is the approach to health education. We have to use modern behaviour change communication tools to define the determinants of social behaviour in each audience segment”, Sundararaman added.
Governments are using “a single blunt message which is being enforced by security agencies , which is a prescription for failure. Health education requires research and inputs from professionals to be more effective”, Sundaraman said.
‘VACCINATE TO PREVENT ANOTHER WAVE’
The vaccination drive, after a slow start, has picked up in the state, said government officials. But, in Tamil Nadu the prioritisation is under question. So far, 34,87,036 doses of vaccine have been administered, which includes those who have taken the two doses.
“Vaccination shortage may hit Tamil Nadu as the stocks are likely to run out. Prioritisation has also been a problem, with no strategy to reach out to the vulnerable and the ones with potential to spread”, said Sundararaman.
The state has a vaccine stock of 18 lakh doses sufficient for 10 days.
Talking of the second wave which is in the beginning stage now, Sundararaman warned of the third wave being imminent as long as there are people with lesser immunity.
“The vaccination we are doing is to abort the third wave. A few countries have succeeded in preventing the second and third waves. Since we are witnessing the initial phase of the second wave, we have to warn ourselves of the third wave and vaccinate at a faster rate”, Sundararaman said.