On March 7, the first COVID-19 case was reported in Tamil Nadu. A month later, on April 7, the number of positive cases was 690. This is despite abysmally low testing—only a total of 5,305 samples had been tested while a State much smaller in size and population, such as Kerala, tested about twice that number.
As on April 7, the State announced that eight people had died. Another 19 had been discharged after treatment.
But one official here exuded confidence. Tamil Nadu’s confidence was based on the fact that only “one source”, the Delhi conference of a religious sect, the Tabliqi Jamaat, was responsible for the huge hike in numbers. According to government statistics, as many as 961 persons who attended the conference in Delhi tested negative, while 631 tested positive. This includes three doctors.
Asked if singling out one community for testing and naming it in a separate column in the press release would make the community a target, the official asserted that there was no such intention. On April 6, the State government, apparently realising its mistake changed the column named “Delhi Conference” to a more generic “single source”.
The more important thing for the State, the official who spoke to this correspondent said, was that the infection source was just this one and there did not seem to be any such massive sources. Asked how the government could come to such a conclusion when the State was not testing enough, there was no response.
Even on April 8, there were complaints of lack of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and testing kits across the State, more than a month after the first case was reported. As of April 7, the State had only about 14,000 test kits. More disturbing was the news that there was at least one COVID-19 case in 34 districts of the State.
Meanwhile, the Madras High Court on April 8 directed the Central government to explain its arbitrary decision of making available only Rs.510 crore to Tamil Nadu, which has the second largest number of cases in India. In an announcement on April 6, the Central government announced an allotment of Rs.11,051 crore to 26 States to fight the COVID-19 spread.
Maharashtra, which has the largest number of cases, received Rs.1,611 crore while Uttar Pradesh, which lags in testing, was given the second highest amount, Rs.966 crore. States ruled by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its allies cornered a chunk of the allocation—Madhya Pradesh got Rs. 910 crore, Bihar Rs.708 crore and Gujarat Rs.662 crore. The only non-BJP (or ally) State to feature in the list of those which got a significant allocation is Rajasthan (Rs.740 crore).
Kerala, which is being appreciated the world over for its containment efforts, received a meagre Rs.157 crore.