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How Tamil Nadu is fighting Covid-19

By T E Narasimhan
April 13, 2020 16:45 IST
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The state is following surveillance, containment, increasing testing facilities, and ensuring essentials at people's doorstep, among other strategies. 

T E Narasimhan reports.

IMAGE: A policeman wearing a coronavirus themed helmet distributes pamphlets to raise awareness about COVID-19 at a residential area in Chennai. Photograph: PTI Photo

Kalu, along with others, finished his brief stretching exercise, and sat on one of the benches placed in rows on the cement ground.

 

Their physical instructor came down from the podium and a white screen and projector were placed for the next routine activity of watching a movie.

In the meanwhile, a few of his fellow villagers from Odisha started reciting poems in their language through a microphone.

His life has taken a different turn with industry coming to a grinding halt with the pandemic-induced lockdown and he is left with no income to support even himself.

Some migrant workers were able to board a train to their hometown just before the lockdown. He, however, was stuck in Guindy, a neighbourhood of Chennai, and food and daily expenses became a big question.

Officials of the Chennai Corporation took them to the premises of a college about five days ago and they were given rooms to stay in, food and refreshments, a short stretch-out time in the evening, followed by performance by some of their fellow-dwellers and a movie before dinner.

He, along with another 376 migrant labourers, mostly from Ganjam district in Odisha, are staying at the college for the past couple of weeks.

"Here we are well taken care of. We have no complaints, but the only worry is how we can go back to our hometown," he said.

Manjit Singh Nayar, general secretary and correspondent of Guru Nanak College and a member of the State Minorities Commission, said: "We are arranging for their food and other necessary things such as soap, hand wash, and towels. We are getting supplies from many kind people."

As the number of positive coronavirus cases is increasing, the Tamil Nadu government has started taking hard measures to control the spread of the virus, while ensuring all the basic essentials are available.

On March 11, Tamil Nadu Health Minister C Vijayabaskar declared the state 'coronavirus free' as the lone patient in Chennai was recovering fast.

Almost a month later, on April 12, the number of positive cases soared to 1,075. The deaths in the state stand at 11 as of April 12. Five doctors have so far tested positive.

The state has created facilities, including 19 (12 government) testing centres. Tamil Nadu has around 29,074 isolation beds and 3,371 ventilators ready as of now.

The state government has ordered 4,00,000 rapid test kits from China, which could give results in 30 minutes, said Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami.

The state is following surveillance, containment, increasing testing facilities, and ensuring essentials at people's doorstep, among other strategies.

To keep surveillance, the state has invoked the Public Health and the Disaster Management Laws and Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure. 12 teams headed by senior officers have been set up to implement and monitor all the activities related to the pandemic.

All points of entry and exit in all the districts are sealed. Even within the districts, cities, towns and villages, gates made of iron sheets have been built to stem the movements of people.

While in many places the police, with folded hands, appealed to people not to venture out unnecessarily, to spread awareness about the severity of the coronavirus pandemic, they have made a unique 'Corona' helmet to dissuade commuters from coming out on the streets during the nationwide lockdown. In some places, however, they had to use the baton.

Omanthurar Medical College Hospital in Chennai and ESI Medical College Hospital in Coimbatore have been declared dedicated COVID-19 hospitals.

One hospital in each district has been identified and provided treatment facilities. It has also roped in 25 private medical colleges and 110 private hospitals to treat COVID-19 patients.

Self-help groups across the state have been used for manufacturing masks and sanitisers. More than 45,000 volunteers, who include 1,100 doctors and 3,500 paramedical staff, have registered so far.

The chief minister has also announced incentives, a guaranteed offtake of anti-malarial, anti-viral drugs, invasive ventilators, intensive care unit monitors, masks and personal protective equipment (PPE).

Incentives for manufacturing them include 30 per cent investment subsidy of up to Rs 20 crore, spread equally over five years.

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T E Narasimhan in Chennai
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