CHENNAI: The State police force lost an officer to Covid on Wednesday, as a city-based inspector succumbed to the viral disease at the RGGGH. The inspector, who was conducting awareness campaigns and ensuring social distancing in this jurisdiction, was admitted on June 5. He was later shifted to the corporat i o n’s care centre at IIT-Madras. There, his condition deteriorated over the days and doctors advised him to start taking Actemra Tocilizumah. There is a shortage of the drug in Chennai and even those under the government care are allegedly being made to procure it themselves.
“A patient needs to take three injections and each costs Rs 75,000,” a senior police officer said. Hearing about this, city commissioner AK Viswanathan had volunteered to pay Rs 2.25 lakh for the drug, and orders were also placed. However, the officer’s condition did not improve despite using the drug. On Wednesday morning he was put on ventilator support. He breathed his last at 3.30 pm. The officer is survived by his wife and two children. Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami spoke to the bereaved family over the phone. He has announced a government job for a member of the family. As of Wednesday, 731 police personnel from Chennai city have tested positive for Covid, of which 330 have recovered.
CMO staff succumbs
A 56-year-old employee in the office of Chief Minister also died of Covid Tuesday night. The deceased staff was working as a ‘senior private secretary’ and has been in the hospital for over a week now. While the hospital officials confirmed that he had Covid, the Chief Minister’s condolence message did not mention about this and merely said he died of illness. Both the Chief Minister, and Deputy CM O Panneerselvam, condoled the death.
The CM spoke to the family over phone and has, again, promised a government job for the next of kin. Meanwhile, expressing shock at the death of his colleague, Peter Anthonysami, president of Tamil Nadu Secretariat Association appealed to the government to close down the secretariat till the lockdown period is over. “If not, even among the minimum number of staff, those who are above 55, pregnant women and those who are suffering from cardiac and other ailments should not be asked to come to the secretariat.” Meanwhile, sources said around 200 employees including many IAS officers and officers at different ranks have contracted this infection at the secretariat and are under treatment.
The TNSA had been demanding for the past 10 days for the reduction of staff strength from 50 to 33 per cent. From June 19, however, all government offices will function only with 33 percent employees. DMK chief MK Stalin has condoled the death on a Facebook post, and urged the ruling party to ensure the safety of employees.
‘Govt staff vulnerable’
Many government employees are now worried about cases going unreported. There is imminent threat, they say, because customers or outsiders continue to visit their offices. The CMDA office, for instance, is bustling with activity.
Traders and builders seeking plan approvals keep visiting the premises. Even the office of the Inspector General of Prisons has reported positive cases. Employees claim in many cases there has been no contact tracing. Even Secretariat officials told Express that cases have been reported but contact tracing is not done. “Sometimes they seal a floor of a building or a small portion, and later we come to know the person tested positive,” said a official. It has been learnt that an employee with the computer cell of CMDA, who was frequenting all wings of the office, has tested positive.
While the cell was closed, no contact tracing has been done yet. Bank employees are equally worried, with customers continuing to pour into branch officers. “Even when a branch of ours was shut down in Santhome, the staff, instead of being isolated, were asked to work out of an alternative site,” says Sumathi, a bank employee. When contacted, a senior Corporation official said that once a person tests positive, a Sanitary Inspector reaches his/her house to ascertain the conditions of their family members. By dialogue, the person is asked about who he/she has come in contact with for the past 10-12 days. According to ICMR guidelines, not everyone who comes into contact with the person will need to be listed under contacts- there must be at least 15 minutes of dialogue, the official said.
( With inputs from C Shivakumar)