Coronavirus cases in Chennai are steadily on the rise. Of the 121 cases reported in the state Tuesday, Chennai had 103 confirmed Covid-19 cases. While 32 of the 37 districts in the state had zero cases on Tuesday, the state recorded the highest-ever spike in a day as the state’s testing rate is also double the national average now.
As the largest Covid-19 hotspot in the state, spike of cases in Chennai was not surprising for experts. The state has tested over one lakh samples now, and the testing rate of Chennai alone was five times more than other districts in the state and the average increase of infections was 9.4 per cent for Chennai against 3.7 per cent for the entire state.
Jayaprakash Muliyil, chairman of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE), said it is just that it would have been double the number if there was no lockdown. “Not surprising… In cities like Chennai, such a spike was expected,” he said.
Ever since the outbreak reported on March 7, when an engineer from Oman was tested positive in Kancheepuram, south of Chennai, and the second case in which a migrant labourer from Uttar Pradesh was tested positive, a case which is still classified as one from an “unidentified sources,” Chennai had maximum number of cases since beginning. At the moment, there are 673 positive cases spread across 202 containment zones in the Greater Chennai Corporation region.
Some of the new cases emerged in the city in the past two days were also a matter of concern.
One was that of a man who ran a hair dressing salon in Koyambedu, where one of the state’s largest vegetable markets is located. It was later found that the salon was functioning on many days against lockdown norms. The salon owner himself had reported at a clinic four days back with symptoms of fever. He was then referred to the city general hospital where he was tested positive. While corporation officials have managed to trace some 30 secondary contacts of the 39-year-old salon owner, two vegetable vendors at the market have also been tested positive, including a 53-year-old man on Tuesday.
The state health department is, however, sure that there are no major chain of transmissions out of their radar. The data is also not showing any alarming trends in the Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (SARI) cases in last one month.
The total number of SARI cases on April 17 increased from 142 to 180 by April 27 after the government started testing everyone with symptoms irrespective of travel, contact histories. The cases linked to Influenza Like Illness (ILI) were also not unusual. When there were 183 fever cases on April 17, it declined further to 165 on April 21 to 110 on April 27.
However, there were some interesting trends as well. The data accessed by The Indian Express shows that the total number of new admissions reported in four major hospitals in Chennai – Kilpauk Medical College, Stanley Medical College, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and Omandurar Medial College – has been increasing gradually in the last 10 days. When there were only 44 inpatient cases on April 17, it was 40 on April 19, 37 on April 21, 73 on April 26 and 78 on April 27 for related symptoms.
And there was a significant rise in the number of cases with unidentified sources too. Across the state, there were 23 unidentified cases on April 17, the figure was 100 10 days later, on April 27. There was a steady increase; 29 cases on April 19 to 34 on April 21 to 62 on April 26. A sudden spike of 32 such cases were reported on April 27.
Even as the situation in the state has been not so alarming in the past two weeks, and the death rate too was considered as one of the lowest, 1.2, Muliyil said it was a fact that we were not testing every case and we cannot diagnose everybody. “Chennai’s population density may have played a role… Mostly, these cases with unidentified sources also come and report on their own for symptoms. But there are many who do not go and report for mild symptoms, or people in rural areas do not go to hospital… The spike in the cases, especially cases with unidentified sources, means that disease is spreading despite lockdown. This is not surprising, we expect this in an epidemic, lockdown will slowdown it,” he said.
Even as the government reiterates that there is no ‘community transmission,’ the case of two officers, attached to the Nungambakkam police station, who were tested positive on Tuesday, throws light on the ground scenario. Both were asymptomatic, and tested positive when a group of officers had gone through random testing. “Tracing the source of infection may be tough in their case, we are told that they were engaged in a food distribution drive. After they tested positive, they were alerted and they reached hospital in their own two wheelers and got admitted,” said a senior health official.
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