At a time when the daily number of COVID-19 cases in Chennai has dipped below 1,000, a serosurvey has revealed that nearly one-third of the city’s population has been exposed to the virus.
With Diwali a few weeks away and monsoons hitting Chennai, experts have raised concerns that public gathering and viral fever outbreak will add to the surge of the disease.
The Quint spoke to leading doctors working in COVID special hospitals, to understand how the pandemic is being handled in the metropolis.
TN Records 93% Recovery Rate
As per the state health department’s bulletin on Thursday, Tamil Nadu has surpassed a total of 7 lakh COVID-19 cases. The death toll in the state rose to 10,825, with 445 more fatalities.
However, the state has made significant progress in the fight against the virus and the recovery rate is over 93 percent. In recent days, the daily recoveries have been surpassing the daily new cases.
In the recent serosurvey conducted by the Chennai Corporation, 6,389 samples were collected randomly across the city, of which 2,062 tested positive for IgG antibodies –about 32.3 percent of the population.
The survey findings show an overall positivity rate of 32.3 percent in the city.
The first phase of the survey was conducted in mid-July and early-August, with a sample size of around 12,000. The findings, released on 1 September, revealed that one fifth of the population, as in 21.5 percent of the people had been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 infection, that causes the disease COVID-19.
‘Shouldn’t Repeat Kerala’s Mistake’
As on 22 October, Chennai has recorded 1,93,299 coronavirus cases, 1,78,623 patients have been discharged, there are currently 11,107 active cases and 3,569 deaths. What is significant to note is that a month ago, cases were as high as 1,900 per day, which has now come down to less than 100 cases daily in the last few weeks.
“The incidence of new cases are coming down, death rate is slightly better but we should not take it for granted that we have reached the peak and we are going down. Surveillance by the government should not be relaxed because it may hit back again,” warned Dr CN Raja, Tamil Nadu president, Indian Medical Association.
Comparison of Coronavirus Cases in Chennai and Tamil Nadu:
The Tamil Nadu government has announced new relaxations such as all shops, hotels, tea stalls, restaurants, commercial complexes located in non-containment zones can remain open till 10pm, to aid economic activity during the festive season.
But ‘we shouldn’t repeat the mistake made by Kerala during Onam,’ cautioned another expert.
"“In Kerala, things were totally under control but they are also getting new cases. That could happen to Tamil Nadu too because we are not yet immune to it. Until we have the vaccination enforced, until then the only vaccine we have is masks.”" - Dr C N Raja, Tamil Nadu President, Indian Medical Association.
‘Free COVID Vaccine’ Promise
Meanwhile, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswami on Thursday, 22 October said, “When the coronavirus vaccine is developed, it will be administered free of cost to the people of the state, with the government bearing all costs.”
Actor-politician Kamal Haasan slammed political parties for offering the vaccine as a ‘poll promise.’
“Evil promises are being made for something that is non-existent. Dear leaders, a COVID vaccine is a life-saving drug. You are used to playing with people's poverty and if you dare to play with their lives, your political lifetime will be decided by people,” he said in a tweet.
Commenting on the availability of the vaccine, Dr Raja said, “This is the time to look for the vaccine and make arrangements to procure, store and administer. We have to have a proactive protocol to ensure the frontline workers, including the police get it at the earliest.”
Another Wave Expected?
Several experts said that there could be a surge in cases soon in Chennai as many are flouting social distancing norms. However, since the treatment procedure is more standardised, adequate availability of healthcare resources and increased awareness amongst people can help improve the condition, they said.
There are 197 COVID -19 testing facilities (66 government + 131 private) in the state, which has one of the highest number of persons tested everyday, with 90,19,152 persons tested so far.
“Very soon, we can see another surge with cases multiplying not just in Chennai, but even in the villages as there is a lot of movement of persons now that most of the lockdown restrictions have been lifted. Just like the countries in the West, we could be hit by another wave so until then we should all mask up and keep testing,” said another doctor.
Dr Paranthaman, the head of the department of the medicine ward at Kilpauk Medical College told The Quint that while recovery rate has been good, “There have been a lot of complications in many cases which have tested negative for COVID-19. There are many who have tested for coronavirus and after treating they have come back with severe symptoms and in some cases even lost their lives.”
More Incentives Needed for Healthcare Staff
A few doctors pointed out that while the state has ‘adequate supply of resources such as beds, oxygen, ventilators, medical staff,’ the government needs to ensure compensation for the healthcare staff.
“All the healthcare workers are very tired now, they are very overworked. Government should encourage them by giving incentives and compulsory rest in quarantine. The number of beds is not a concern anymore because many private players have come in and there is plenty now. Getting manpower is alright to an extent but they need to be paid well, because it is certain they will get the infection,” Dr Raja said.
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