Effect of COVID-19 resurgence...Will TN be imposed with complete lockdown after the polls?

The election and health bureaucrats in Tamil Nadu are facing an unusual ordeal in conducting the crucial assembly polls smoothly and to curb the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic. Amid the election fervor, the state has been witnessing the second wave of the outbreak with incessant spikes in fresh COVID-19 cases, pushing the government to consider reinforcing the restrictions in the state after the assembly polls. 

Tamil Nadu will go for the single-phase poll on April 6 with around 4000 candidates in the fray. The heated election campaigns had seen the COVID-19 guidelines and protocols going into the air as the campaign rallies had gravitated thousands of people and members of the political parties and the apathy over the guidelines that prevailed in the state had given a prospect for the pandemic to resurge and the Test Positivity Rate (TPR) is the evidence on the biggest jump in fresh cases. 

TPR is a measure of the spread of the infection and it is measured based on the number of cases tested positive for COVID-19 in 100 samples tested. According to reports, the TPR rate in Chennai has gone tripled over the past ten days. The TPR rate in Chennai stood at 3.61% on March 23 and on April 3, the city had recorded a TPR rate of 9.13%. This huge jump has become a challenge for the health authorities in containing the spread amid the COVID-19 vaccination drive.

Chennai has been testing 14,000 to 15,000 samples every day for the past few weeks and the actual number of active cases in Chennai were 3,441 on March 23 and 7,713 on April 3. The alarming increase has put a sign of vigil on the Greater Chennai Corporation and the civic body has currently been planning to strengthen the restrictions in the city after the assembly polls. Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner G Prakash said that the civic body is planning to impose stringent curbs on the movement of people after polling on April 6. 

He further expressed confidence that by imposing strict restrictions, the number of COVID-19 cases in the city can be brought under control by the end of April. Prakash said that people who do not comply with the rules like wearing masks and observing physical distancing will be heavily fined. He told the people to get prepared for restrictions on the movement of people after the elections. 

Last week, the Commissioner has warned the residents of Chennai that the restrictions will be imposed after the elections, and though the restrictions may sound bitter for the residents, Prakash said that there is no other way to curb the spread. On the front of how the civic body plans to mitigate the spread, the Commissioner had listed out three major points of action - starting fever clinics in 100 top hotspot locations, bring in 1,000 focus volunteers to ensure essentials reach those who are under home isolation to prevent them from exiting their residences, and visit by fever survey workers to at least 250 houses every day. 

According to the civic body, Anna Nagar currently is the zone with the most number of active cases with 928 cases, followed by Teynampet (839), Kodambakkam (741), Ambattur (732), Royapuram (682), Thiru-Vi-Ka Nagar (631), Adyar (543), and Valasaravakkam (526). The resurgence of the pandemic has sparked speculations on whether the complete lockdown is coming back in Tamil Nadu and Chennai after the assembly polls. 

While addressing the reporters on Monday, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan IAS said that the containment measures for the COVID-19 pandemic will be tightened after April 7 and he has appealed to the people to wear masks while casting their votes on Tuesday. By citing that it is disappointing that the number of people receiving COVID-19 vaccines in the state isn't on the expected scale, Radhakrishnan said that the fever camps in the state will be increased. 

Responding to a question on lockdown, Radhakrishnan asserted that there is no plan of imposing complete lockdown again in Tamil Nadu and asked the people not to believe in the hearsays that the lockdown will be implemented after April 6. The measures from the civic body and the statement from the Health Secretary have come when the state has been witnessing the second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak, which is severe than the preceding one. 

According to the state health department, Tamil Nadu has reported 8,99,807 COVID-19 cases so far as of Sunday of which 21,958 are active cases, 8,65,071 have been discharged, and 12,778 had succumbed to the viral infection. By this time on March 25, the state had 10,487 active cases and in ten days, the number of active cases has been doubled. On Sunday, the state has reported 3,581 fresh cases of which 1,344 cases were from Chennai, 1,813 fresh discharges, and 14 fresh deaths.