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Chennai’s Response to Corona – Is it Enough?

The number of cases of Corona in Chennai has, from the start, been lower than the national average. The only confirmed case so far has been from an individual who traveled to Oman, and he too was immediately quarantined by the health authorities in Rajiv Gandhi Government Hospital. This quarantine was followed by keeping in quarantine all the seven people who came in close contact with him. 

Chennai Corona Virus Response
Chennai Corona Virus Response

Read our article on Corona Virus in Chennai

The health authorities of the state are taking this head-on if statements from the official twitter handle of the Tamilnadu Health Minister Thiru Vijaybhasker are to be accepted.

A week back, the health minister tweeted that the number of people infected with COVID19, aka Corona, is Zero. Considering that 119 people from other parts of India are affected, and three deaths have been reported as on March 17, we analyzed, could it be that our definition of the counting itself be questionable?

Who is allowed to get tested for COVID19, aka Corona?

The current guidelines that are guiding the action plan for tacking the COVID19 crisis are from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare. This guideline is being used with the help of 65 designated testing labs across the country. Under the existing directive, the test is being administered only to the following people:

  1. Those individuals who have traveled to affected countries
  2. Those individuals who have come in direct contact with COVID19 individual.

Individuals who have a travel history to the affected region but not showing any symptoms are not being tested. More details of the corona advisory can be seen here.

How is Tamil Nadu’s Approach to COVID19, aka Corona Screening?

Based on the official press release by the Health Department of Government of Tamilnadu, only 98 tests have been carried out as on March 16, 2020. Screening at the various Airports in Tamilnadu has resulted in about 2200 individuals being actively screened. 

The state has also doubled the quarantined period from 14 to 28 days to restrict the spread. The State Public Health Laboratory has clarified that people traveling from high-risk places that show symptoms can reach the state helpline 24/7. On contacting the helpdesk, the next course of action will be shared. If they are unwell, an ambulance will be arranged to take them to the isolation wards. Depending on the results after the testing, they will be put under home quarantine or continue treatment in the hospital.

Chennai / Tamilnadu COVID19 aka Corona Virus Helpline

  1. 104
  2. 044- 2951 0400
  3. 044-2951 0500
  4. + 91 94443 40496
  5. +91 87544 48477

The Government has currently restricted the testing to Government labs to prevent price racketeering by private labs.

Currently, the only lab handling testing is The King’s Institute in Guindy, which is possessing about 300 tests per day. 

Additionally, the Government has arranged to collaborate with 25 labs in case an emergency arises. 

 Why is Tamilnadu Testing so Few People?

The current protocol requires that only people in the high-risk category to be tested. This is largely due to the understanding that the risk due to community transmission is very low based on laboratory observations. 

Currently, the Government is tracking every person who returned from a high-risk location from the control room. A dedicated team is following up with them on a daily basis to check if they are displaying any symptoms of COVID 19, aka Corona. 

An interesting observation was that – After one infected individual who tested positive, the Government tracked more than 30 persons who had come into contact with him. This was including cab drivers who took him from the airport. They are were tracked and monitored. All the related tests were negative. Hence, the risk due to community transmission seems extremely low. 

No Testing for Perceived Self Assessed High-Risk Cases. 

Many people who walked into the Rajiv Gandhi General Hospital with mild symptoms of flu or common cold were turned back and asked to return to their home and come back in case the situation escalates or warrants only. 

According to the account from Gayatri Khandhadai the Asia Policy Regional Coordinator of Association for Progressive Communications – she was turned back from the testing center in spite of her voluntarily approaching the hospital.

Is Higher Testing Numbers now a battle between States?

Kerala has so far tested 5900 people. Across the country, tests are being administered only as assessed by the Government doctors. 

COVID19 aka Corona Cases in India as on 17, March, 2020.

Flattening the Curve

In all likelihood, you would have received messages on WhatsApp or seen in new about how flattening the curve matters?

Various mathematical models have been created based on established community health transmission experiences. It agreed among the medical community that Social distancing would be the best way forward, as this will allow the health ecosystem to manage the additional load. Though this approach will prolong the presence of the conditions by a few months, it will not cause a strain on the health system if an uncontrolled progression is allowed. 

With this view in mind, the Government of Tamilnadu issued a set of advisory to arrest the spread of COVID19, aka Corona. 

All educational institutions and non-essential services such as bars, cinema halls, malls, and resorts will be shut until the end of March. Surveillance has also been stepped up on transport vehicles coming in from other states. The Chief Minister has also advised people to avoid non-essential travel and large gatherings for the next 15 days.

Which countries have their COVID 19 cases flattened?

It is Affecting Everyone!

If you are in a closed environment and are not interacting with anyone with symptoms and your company allows you to work from home, then you might not get affected significantly. But this can only be said if one is part of the organized business world. The marginal community, the people who have daily jobs, the workers will be the most hit. Already malls are deserted in Chennai. Imagine how these daily wage earners will make their living?