Complete lockdown to be initiated in Tamil Nadu; experts demand more planning and action

Chennai, Tamil NaduUpdated: Jun 18, 2020, 10:14 PM IST


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Last week, when there were talks of an impending lockdown, the Chief Minister himself quelled them and termed them rumors, only to make a public flip-flop on Monday. 

Tamil Nadu’s Capital City, Chennai, and its three adjoining districts are to be under a 12-day lockdown starting from the morning of June 19 until June 30. While all of India is on ‘unlock’ starting June, Tamil Nadu has become the only state to announce a strict lockdown, based on the suggestions of an expert medical committee. 

This 12-day lockdown announcement which was made on Monday, had come as a real surprise to the people of Tamil Nadu. Last week, when there were talks of an impending lockdown, the Chief Minister himself quelled them and termed them “rumors”, only to make a public flip-flop on Monday. 

A member of the expert committee who is advising the State government told WION that the committee had only suggested few specific strategies and not a lockdown. However, the government had decided to go in for a lockdown based on the decisions taken at their cabinet meeting. The senior medical professional emphasised that the government needed to focus on better inter-department coordination and monitor ground-level implementation of its initiatives. The committee had also suggested that the government go in for rapid testing and more mobile clinics. 

At a time when Tamil Nadu has surpassed a total of 52,000 COVID-19 cases, experts that WION spoke to say that the government needs to plan and execute many more steps in tandem with the lockdown. These steps are highly crucial at a time when the state has been seeing over 2,000 new cases for the last two days.

Infectious Diseases Specialist Dr. Subramanian Swaminathan said that a 12-day lockdown alone would be inadequate to interrupt the transmission. “To interrupt transmission, mathematical models suggest at least a three week lockdown. We also need a clear audit process to verify the grassroots data that health workers are collecting on a door-to-door basis. Only when we have authentic data can the authorities plan adequately and take measures,” he told WION. 

When asked about the top precautions that the public must follow on during the lockdown, Dr. Swaminathan emphasised on the need of wearing masks and following social distancing. “In most areas with high cases, people are not wearing masks, that’s why there is an explosion of cases. When we compare between disinfectant spraying and wearing of masks, mask-wearing is more important in controlling transmission at source,” he added. 

Public health experts reiterated the view that lockdowns need to be bolstered with additional measures, which are strictly implemented at the ground level. They feel that the public have the larger responsibility of following basic cleanliness and health practices to keep danger at bay. 

“Washing out hands with soap is far more effective than using sanitizers. Sanitizers can be used for disinfecting medical equipment, personal belongings, billing counters etc. We must keep the elderly people indoors and ensure that they take their medication (for existing heath issues) regularly, besides healthy food. Health workers on door-to-door campaigns can also use pulse oximeters to check the health of those who are vulnerable,” Dr. Kolandaisamy, Retired Director of Public Health, told WION. 

Lockdowns are not just about restrictions, but about performing more tests and tracing, isolating the affected individuals. “Tamil Nadu has done nearly 25,000 tests on Wednesday alone and it is a significant number. The authorities have been talking about scaling up efforts in coming days. When this is done consistently for about a month or more, then definitely we will be able to bring the situation under control,” Healthcare Consultant and Senior journalist Dr. Sumanth C Raman told WION. 

While wearing a mask is important, doctors don’t recommend the N-95 and 3-ply masks for common people. They say that two-layered, washable cotton masks would be adequate, whereas a dupatta or a handkerchief would not be advised. 

“In case one feels sore throat, body ache, tasteless sensation, loss of sense of smell or other symptoms, they can isolate themselves at home for a few days. If the condition persists for a few days, they must reach out for medical help, before they suffer breathlessness and reach a hospital immediately. After recovery as well, it is imperative to be under quarantine for seven to ten days,” Dr. Ramasubramanian, Infectious Diseases Specialist told WION.