The past week was gruelling for health officials in parts of western Tamil Nadu, which are seeing a spike in the number of COVID-19 cases. Health officials in Salem and the Nilgiris, especially, were shocked to note that individual patients in their districts had led to the spread of the virus to 26 and 103 persons respectively.
In Salem district, the police have filed a case against the individual after they found that the 30-year-old had returned from Maharashtra two weeks ago via road and had not informed local authorities.
"We were conducting a regular door-to-door check in Dadagapatty in the city. In one of the streets there, we found people with symptoms and soon 26 persons from the street tested positive. On conducting enquiries, one of the infected persons informed us that their neighbour had come from Mumbai two weeks back and that he went about meeting other people and roaming around the area," a health official tells TNM.
Among those who caught the infection from him are his wife and two children as well.
"Since he didn't inform the corporation, he was not tested. We have booked him under Section 269 of Indian Penal Code (IPC), based on a complaint from the sanitary inspector, for concealing travel history," says an investigating official. Section 269 refers to a negligent act likely to spread infection of disease dangerous to life. It applies to anyone who unlawfully or negligently does any act which is, and which he knows or has reason to believe to be, likely to spread the infection of any disease dangerous to life, and shall be punished with imprisonment which may extend to six months, or with fine, or with both.
Similarly in the Nilgiris as well, health officials are looking to file a complaint against an employee of Needle Industries Pvt Ltd and the company itself for failing to adhere to norms set by the government to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
According to health officials, a 47-year-old employee of the company was found to be coronavirus positive on June 16, by which time he had passed on the infection to over 100 persons. This includes 65 people in his organisation and others from his family and friends' circle.
"Despite having a fever for two days, the employee went to office. Whatâ€™s more, he shuttled between Coimbatore and the Nilgiris via public transport," says Dr P Balusamy, Deputy Director, Public Health. "But the company he works for is more at fault here. They have not been doing any thermal screening for employees. This is despite the Nilgiris Collector asking all companies to ensure this is done and also asking that an oximeter be put into service to ensure oxygen saturation for employees is not below 90%," he adds.
The Deputy Director further tells TNM that a complaint is likely to be filed against both the employee and the company for negligence.
"During the time of a pandemic, all efforts must be taken by individuals and organisations to control the spread," says the health authority.
So far, 1,340 persons have been infected in Salem district, while the number stands at 150 in Nilgiris district.