As the total confirmed cases of coronavirus cross 2,700 in Tamil Nadu, experts say crucial indicators of the outbreak remain reassuringly low, with not a single patient on ventilator among the 1416 active cases currently being treated in the state.
Talking to The Indian Express, health secretary Beela Rajesh said the state government has already sought the help of the National Institute of Epidemiology (NIE) to study the interesting pattern of disease on the state population. Rajesh said the disease transmission rate was also much lower, except in Chennai. Follow LIVE updates on coronavirus pandemic
“R-0 (R-naught, reproduction number) is about 1 to 2.5 in Tamil Nadu. While the entire state and all districts have 1 or less than 1, emerging cluster of cases in Chennai makes it up to 2.5 for Chennai alone. But it is significant that the number of people, on average, who are being infected by one corona-positive individual is much lower in the state,” she added.
Regarding cases that required critical care or ventilator, Rajesh said only a dozen cases (of the total 2526 cases till Friday) required ventilator. “There was one case in which a patient had come out of ventilator as his condition improved. Many deaths we reported (28 till Friday) were rapid deaths in which they were not on ventilators. In fact, no case died on ventilator, while those who had to use was for less than 12 hours. This was a positive sign, an interesting pattern for many experts who are helping us, maybe because many patients who were elders had better health,” she said.
The state’s recovery rate (54 per cent) and death rate were also better than many other states with a similar population. The government data shows 1,341 of 2,757 patients have been discharged from hospitals after treatment till May 2.
According to G Prakash, commissioner of Greater Chennai Corporation who is handling Covid-19 situation in Chennai city, a large majority of cases, “about 98%,” reported in Chennai were not symptomatic. Even if his “98%” claim is considered as a general statement, several doctors confirmed that it was true.
“It cannot be 98% anywhere in the world but it was more than 80 percent in Chennai,” said a senior doctor attached to the city corporation.
Considering the safety of high-risk categories and vulnerable sections such as elders, a senior corporation official said they will soon implement a plan to shift them to safer places.
The sudden spike of cases in Chennai, however, is leading to a crisis situation too as two of the four government medical colleges treating Covid-19 patients have already reached their maximum capacity. A senior health official confirmed that Covid-19 wards in Kilpauk Medical College and Stanley Medical Colleges are already full. “We are diverting patients to other hospitals now.”
A senior vascular surgeon Dr Amalorpavanathan Joseph, the man behind Tamil Nadu’s organ donation system, seen as the best in the country, said some of these trends would ease the burden on the health care system.
“But we should be able to use these data to reduce the burden on government hospitals. With adequate number of medical staff, we can easily shift all stable patients to safer isolation centres outside hospitals. As they need only basic attention and frequent monitoring, which can be done by nurses and other government Ayurveda, Siddha doctors who know the basics of medical care, we can ensure that hospitals with critical care availability remain free to accommodate more patients even if there are cases that required ventilators increase,” he said.
A senior public health department official said they have already deployed 1,000 Ayush doctors from various streams such as Ayurveda, Siddha, and Homeo to help the doctors and health workers in Covid treatment.
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