COVID-19: Cases swell up in Tamil Nadu, more clarity on Section 144 extension awaited

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CHENNAI: The State has decided to extend the restrictions under Section 144 till April 30. This was stated in an order issued by the additional chief secretary on April 4.

However, more clarity is awaited on the matter as the Central government is yet to make any announcement on extending the ongoing nationwide lockdown beyond April 14.

The order also stated that the Revenue and Disaster Management Department will allocate Rs 75.27 crore to provide food for police personnel on duty and another Rs 1 crore for their safety.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the State rose to 571 with 86 new cases confirmed on Sunday. Of the 86, 85 are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat conference in Delhi. The total number of positive cases linked to the Delhi meet is now 522. The State also reported two deaths, taking the number of deaths in TN to five.

Of the deaths reported on Sunday, one was of a 60-year-old man who died in Government Stanley Hospital.

His funeral was conducted without his family which is under quarantine.

The other death was of a 70-year-old man who had returned from Dubai.

He died on Thursday but his test result was reported on Sunday, triggering outrage as his relatives alleged they hadn’t been told he might be a COVID-19 patient.

Following this, the Directorate of Public Health issued fresh guidelines on handling the deaths of patients.

Speaking to reporters of the new cases, Health Secretary Dr Beela Rajesh said, “Of the 571 cases, eight have been discharged, seven are undergoing treatment in private hospitals and the condition of seven patients is critical. Total 1,246 people who attended Delhi conference were traced so far.”

She added that samples were taken from 650 people with a severe acute respiratory infection (SARI) and among them, four with contact history were positive. The State is still in Stage-2 of COVID-19 and has enough RT-PCR testing kits. The aim of the government is to set up testing facilities in all medical colleges in the State.

“An expert team constituted by the government is also studying how the virus has progressed in other countries. The team has also projected how the State would fare in a worst-case scenario. The government has also devised short-term and long-term plans,” Dr Rajesh said. She said a population of 38,88,896 was covered under containment plan and 15,000 field workers were engaged in the task.

Lockdown violations in city

The Chennai city police have booked 7,460 people for violating the lockdown since it was announced on March 25.

They have also seized 3,625 vehicles. As the lockdown enters 12th day, the sleuths are having a tough time in keeping the public indoors.

Through the 150 checkpoints set up across the city, the city police are doing their best to enforce the curfew. The police have booked 17 people for jumping home quarantine while another man was held for spreading rumours about coronavirus infection through social media.

Traffic violators booked

In the meantime, the city traffic police have registered 16,245 cases for traffic violations, including riding triples, drunk driving and not wearing helmets. 7,774 vehicles were seized.

Novel ways to keep virus at bay

Some police personnel are also trying novel methods to keep the virus at bay. One of them are Madhuravoyal Inspector Radhakrishnan who has set up a disinfectant spray tunnel on Poonamallee High Road. Only two-wheelers can pass through the temporary tunnel which has an overhead sprinkler connected to a tank of disinfectant liquid provided by the corporation and health staff.

“While the police are struggling to implement the lockdown, many people are not taking the warnings seriously. If people are roaming outside, let them do it without spreading virus. Hence, after consulting the Corporation and health staff, we set up the tunnel. The temporary set up cost around Rs 15,000,” said the inspector.

In market areas where people are likely to gather, the sleuths are keeping a tight vigil. At Teynampet and Pallavaram markets, barricades have been set up to limit the crowd.

The police are also insisting that people coming to markets wear masks or cover their face.

People who visit markets without masks or covering faces are sent back.“All we ask the people is to cover their face with masks or handkerchief,” said a police inspector who was controlling the crowd in front of a supermarket at Alwarpet.

Fish sellers confused

In some places, fishermen are confused about whether they are allowed to open shops.

“We come daily to the market to see if we are allowed to sell fish. While the government says we can, the police force us to close. We are also facing difficulty in procuring fish,” said R Venkatesan of Thiruvotriyur.

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