Another lockdown begins in Chennai, but case numbers continue to increase

Published : June 19, 2020 20:37 IST

In Chennai, police personnel check documents that allow travel during the 12-day lockdown that began today. Photo: ARUN SANKAR/AFP

The COVID-19 cases galloped in Chennai even as the Tamil Nadu government imposed yet another lockdown in the city and areas in three districts surrounding it from midnight of June 19. Health Department statistics confirmed the trend, reporting 2,115 fresh cases today and 41 deaths.

This is for the third consecutive day that cases have crossed the 2,000 mark in the State, with Chennai accounting for a bulk of the cases (1,322). Since testing is lower in the remaining districts, the numbers too have remained low. Today, for instance, the rest of Tamil Nadu had only 793 cases.

Since June 1, the cases reported daily in the State have remained at 1,000-plus levels. The total number of persons infected by coronavirus in the State as of today was 54,449. Of this, 30,271 have recovered and 23,509 are under treatment. Of the total, Chennai accounts for 38,327 cases (over 60 per cent).

While the infection numbers in themselves were not a problem, the high death rate in the recent past was an issue, one public health expert said. For instance, in just the past four days 182 people have died (44 on June 16, 49 on June 17, 48 on June 18 and 41 on June 19), while the total death count for March, April and May was 173.

The government upped its testing to 25,000-plus today, but even at these levels the State will take an inordinately long time to test 10 per cent of the 8 crore-plus population, a point at which the actual picture of the disease burden in the State will emerge. At the current testing rate, it will take over 300 days to test 10 per cent of the population. The only heartening news in Tamil Nadu is that the infection percentage has dropped from about 12 per cent from early June to just over eight per cent the past few days.

Spokespersons of the ruling All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK) have often stated that the State was testing more than all other States in the country. Opposition lawmakers point out that the State has consistently set the standards for the rest of the country to follow and there was nothing to gloat about the current levels of testing. “At least 10 per cent of the Tamil Nadu population should be tested,” says DMK lawmaker Poongothai Aladi Aruna, a practising doctor. “Every district should be on high alert to avoid local transmission from incoming migrant workers. If left attended, as it is now, this is a recipe for disaster,” she added.

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