CHENNAI: Amid the state government’s preparations for a third wave of the pandemic, a cluster of 24 Covid cases has emerged in Chennai. The infectees were among about 300 people who attended a temple-related festival on August 2.
One of the infectees — a 47-year-old unvaccinated diabetic woman — died three days after testing positive, Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan informed the media on Wednesday.
The annual Aadi festival, during which porridge is offered to participants, is generally held in July and August, officials from the Health department said, adding that this event was held at a temple on Vardhammal Garden Street of Tiruvika Nagar.
Samples were collected from participants on August 7, 8 and 9, and 24 of them returned positive.
“We have asked the local police about how such a large gathering was permitted amid the pandemic. The police are looking into it,” said a corporation official.
All those who attended the event will again be tested after a five-day gap, and again after a 10-day gap, officials said.
The civic body has cordoned off the roads surrounding the temple.
The cluster was identified after the local authorities noticed that people who were testing positive had attended the temple event, sources said.
The number of active cases in Chennai is gradually rising again.
From 2,931 active cases on July 1, the number fell to 1,474 on July 28, before rising to 1,627 on August 1 and 2,005 on August 11.
However, the Statewide number of active cases hasn’t risen. As of August 10, there are 20,363 known active cases in Tamil Nadu, compared to 20,524 on August 1.
Experts say people must not let their guard down as Covid is still spreading.
“There is a mistaken assumption that Covid is done and dusted, but new cases are reported daily in all hospitals. This will continue to happen and will get accelerated every time there’s an event,” said infectious diseases specialist Dr Subramaninan Swaminathan, of Gleneagles Global Health City.
He added that people need to follow the guidelines and it is very difficult for the government to police everybody as they can only tell people what to do. Dr Swaminathan said that at this time, people may celebrate festivals at home to avoid crowding.
At least nine of Chennai’s 15 zones are recording new cases in two digits daily, showing an upward trend. Earlier, the civic body shut markets for about 10 days owing to them causing a rise in cases.
Former director of public health Dr K Kolandasamy said the State is now recording focal outbreaks that mean localised clusters.
“If this continues, it will give rise to a third wave. Even one infected person can infect 500 people,” he pointed out.
“The government can selectively close such places that could turn hotspots,” he said.
Meanwhile in a press meet, Dr J Radhakrishnan said that though the government levies fine on people who violate the Covid protocol, there needs to be a change in the minds of people.
“Many people infected in the cluster were not vaccinated. People must cooperate with us to prevent the third wave,” he said.
“We should celebrate our festivals safely and not gather as crowds,” Dr Radhakrishnan added,
He further said containment measures are being taken in all districts when Covid clusters are detected. Dr Radhakrishnan said 10-20 clusters were identified but officials were able to contain them.
“I have observed huge crowds at religious places in Chennai. People must prevent crowding,” he asserted, and added that there are 77 cases of breakthrough infections in Tamil Nadu but the infections were not serious.