While Chennai and the neighbouring districts of Chengalpattu, Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram were put under strict lockdown from Friday to contain the Covid-19 outbreak, the Tamil Nadu health department fears that the hundreds of people who left the capital over the past one week are likely to trigger a fresh spike in cases in the districts.
Districts like Madurai and Coimbatore, which reported very few cases for about a month after the spike in April, have now started reporting cases on a daily basis.
On Friday, Tamil Nadu reported 2,115 new cases, taking the case count in the state to 54,449. The state has reported 666 deaths so far, with 41 reported on Friday.
A senior health official in Chennai said all districts have been told to test everyone coming in from Chennai for Covid-19. “Passengers from other districts are being screened for symptoms as we cannot test everyone,” the official said. “We are expecting a spike in districts by next week as people continue to come to Tamil Nadu from other states as well as districts within the state,” he said.
A senior police officer monitoring the southern region said every district has half a dozen checkposts to register details of people coming in. “Still, there are many interior roads being used by some to evade testing and screening. This is our major concern. The government has ordered Village Vigilance Committees and Friends of Police groups to trace people who reached from other places,” he said.
Coimbatore, which had initially seen a surge in cases and subsequently contained it, has started reporting more cases.
Madurai has also started reporting more cases over the past four days. Compared to 268 cases on June 1, Madurai’s case count is up to 550 cases on Friday.
A Saravanan, DCP in Tirunelveli, where the administration had successfully formed the first Village Vigilance Committee, said the number of cases may be going up but the priority is to test maximum people and to educate the public. “We have installed digital boards in all public places appealing to people to practise mask-wearing, social distancing and tips of healthy diet to reduce the risk.”
Tenkasi near Tirunelveli, Tiruvannamalai, Vellore, Thoothukudi and Kanyakumari are few other districts being closely watched by the health department for many reasons, including the reverse migration of workers from Chennai and other districts to people coming from other states, especially Mumbai. Ramanathapuram and Theni, which borders Kerala, too have shown signs of a second wave of cases, said a health official. “More importantly, many cases being reported in Thoothukudi, Tenkasi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari have no specific travel history,” he said.
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