As Covid-19 numbers rise, has TN come a full circle?

TE Raja Simhan Chennai | Updated on March 07, 2021

As March 7 marks the first anniversary of the deadly coronavirus outbreak in Tamil Nadu, the last 365 days has been hard for the people and government. But the recovery has been quite strong from October. On this day last year, the first case, a 45-year-old from Kancheepuram who returned from Oman was afflicted, admitted at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and discharged ten days later after full recovery.

Fast forward, a year later the number is mind-boggling with total infection reaching 8.55 lakh of which 12,518 died. However, 8.38 lakh persons have recovered, and active cases stand at 3,997.

As the pandemic started, the State government swung in to action and ensured that the number of daily cases was brought down to around 500 in February from a peak of over 2,300 in June last year. Tamil Nadu is now being hailed as a model State in tackling the pandemic. The first action was ramping up RT-PCR testing facilities - today 68 government and 186 private testing facilities are functioning. Over 1.68 crore samples were tested - the highest number in the country.

In Chennai, which is the hub for the infection in the State, nearly 17,000 college students, graduates and postgraduates were recruited as ‘temporary’ volunteers by the Greater Chennai Corporation as part of the coronavirus containment strategy.

Treatment management of patients was categorised into Covid–Hospitals, Covid-Health Centres and Covid-Care Centres with 1,38,310 beds, including 34,849 oxygen supported beds, 7,709 ICU beds and 6,517 ventilators made available.

Further, 530 doctors, 2,323 nurses and 1,508 lab technicians, 334 Health Inspectors, 982 Service Post Graduate Doctors, 1,239 Non-Service Post Graduate Doctors and 2,715 multi-purpose health workers were additionally appointed. That apart, 4,570 nurses and 2,000 paramedical workers were also additionally appointed in May 2020, as per the Interim Budget 2021-22 document.

Toll on economy

Overall, the State Government incurred ₹13,353 crore on the pandemic response. The pandemic affected all the sectors and individuals and crippled the economic activity. The C Rangarajan Committee made projections of two growth scenarios for 2020-21, one indicating that GSDP growth will slow down to 1.31 per cent while the other indicated that growth would turn negative at (-) 0.61 per cent.

However, due to the government's efforts, the number of affected persons has stabilised below 500 per day and the positivity rate has come down significantly. Today, almost all activities have been permitted across the State with very few restrictions. The situation is gaining normalcy, the budget document says.

Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan told BusinessLine, “While the healthcare and frontline workers can be proud of what they could do despite severe scientific limitations in the initial period there is still a long way to go before we can afford to relax.”

Concerns remain

On the increasing number of cases in the last of couple, Radhakrishnan said, “Definitely we are having function-based clusters mainly among families. Not widespread but still cannot be ignored.”

Having successfully slowed down the virus, the focus has now shifted to vaccinating people. Tamil Nadu is again showing the way for other States to follow with over 12 lakh vaccinated. In the first phase, 4.57 lakhs took the shots and in phase II about 8.48 lakhs took in just six days.

Published on March 07, 2021

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