CHENNAI: During the first week of May, ambulances were queuing up outside government hospitals in Chennai due to the lack of beds. The waiting time was up to six hours for a patient to get admission.
On May 7, the new government took charge but the state’s cases continued to climb rapidly to a peak of 36,184 people testing positive on May 20, the highest the state had ever recorded. Following this, the overall cases began declining.
The New Indian Express takes a look at the measures taken by the government to bring down the cases in its battle against Covid-19.
Health Secretary Dr J Radhakrishnan says cases came down because of a combination of factors.
“Apart from focusing on health infrastructure and human resources, a maximum number of samples was collected from Chennai and its adjoining districts,” he said.
As a result, Chennai and Chengalpet had their peak much earlier than other districts, on May 12, followed by Kancheepuram on May 15.
The Health Secretary said that in Chennai, 21 screening centres were introduced while 27 functional COVID care centres were re-established.
“Additional bed facilities were created by the Chennai Corporation and medical colleges were equipped with extra oxygen support,” he said, adding that private COVID care centres were opened and even student doctors were roped in for telemedicine and tele-counseling.
The Health Secretary said that similar measures were done in districts as well.
“Additional medical officers were introduced and the enforcement of the COVID-19 protocols was tightened by the district collector. There was also an online meeting of officials through a web conference,” he added.
He said makeshift ambulances were created in many districts including those in the western belt.
Coimbatore saw its peak on May 27 followed by Erode on May 30. While cases are declining here, officials said they were waiting for two incubation cycles to evaluate if the districts are free from COVID.
“Just like Chennai, there are 24 districts which have done a similar kind of containment work such as traiging, testing and early detecting,” the Health Secretary said.
In Kanyakumari, PHC officials even took a boat across a reservoir to a mountainside to test and screen the tribal population.
Officials said that the COVID-19 war rooms were also decentralized and each district had its own war room to augment oxygen supply and bed availability.
“Apart from the fieldwork, there’s an analytical team that researches, documents and analyses daily COVID-19 figures. They give a summary statement of disease spread, weekly area by area reports, positive rates, district wise hotspots data, number of index cases based on the source of infection,” the Health Secretary added.
Officials and experts said that despite the government’s success in reducing cases, people still need to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
Former Director of Public Health Dr K Kolandasamy said that cases are coming down mainly due to the effect of the lockdown.
“We will have to wait and see how it is when the relaxation measures come. People must practise COVID appropriate behavior such as mask-wearing, social distancing, and handwashing till we reach a point of adequate immunization,” he said.
He said that closed and contained areas should not be allowed to reopen and even non-essential places like theatres and malls could be closed for a while.
“Hospitals too must be divided into COVID wards, non-COVID wards, and pregnant mothers ward,” added Dr Kolandasamy.
Speaking to The New Indian Express, Chennai Corporation Commissioner Gagandeep Singh Bedi, said the main reason for the decrease in cases in the city was lockdown.
“Earlier, Chennai Corporation used to miss out on cases. Patients with symptoms used to roam around and spread the infection to relatives,” he said.
To resolve this issue, Bedi said the civic body sent a circular to private labs to inform about patients' details of all who took CT scans and all medical shops were directed to inform on patients getting paracetamol. He said that the patients were followed up through calls.
“Additionally, we also triaged patients below 45 at their doorsteps. All these measures ensured people do not miss from our ambit,” he said.
Dr Radhakrishnan also said that people must not be casual about the cases coming down and must continue to follow Covid-appropriate behavior.
“I see many people not wearing masks and walking in and out of COVID-19 containment zones. People must not relax and let their guard down,” cautioned Dr Radhakrishnan.