Residents say a lack of seriousness and understanding for COVID-19 protocols, as well as hesitancy to seek medical help has led to a spike in cases in rural Tamil Nadu.

PPE suit people testing a man for COVID Image courtesy: PTI
Coronavirus COVID-19 Tuesday, June 01, 2021 - 09:08

While Chennai has been witnessing a gradual dip in daily COVID-19 cases, the figures in other districts in Tamil Nadu, including Erode, Salem and Kanyakumari, have been witnessing a sharp spike since last week. This comes as Trichy, Coimbatore and Madurai have managed to reduce their cases. Along with daily coronavirus case numbers, the deaths due to the virus have also increased. According to official data from May 25 to May 29, Erode district reported 1555, 1642, 1699, 1731 and 1742 cases in those days. In the same period, Salem reported 928, 841, 929 and 1492 respectively.

Speaking to TNM, Imran Khan, a resident of Thumbal panchayat in Salem, said, “Despite reporting several cases from a particular region, no containment zones have been set up. Strict lockdown and formation of containment zones must be followed in districts, especially in remote villages.”

“There are cases in villages where hundreds of people gather during a death and cremation. And a few times, it was only later found that the deceased was positive for the coronavirus and succumbed due to the disease. Villagers need to be sensitised about going to hospitals as many remain at home despite fever and prolonged illness,” added Imran.

According to official sources in Salem district, the administration took an average of 1,142 COVID-19 tests in March. However, average testing increased to 5,820 in May. Currently, close to 7000 COVID-19 tests are being conducted per day in Salem district. Meanwhile, as of May 30 over 4.81 lakh people have been vaccinated. Sources confirm there are 4,450 Covaxin shots and 7330 Covishield doses in stock in the district.

A Salem resident explained, “The surge in cases can be pointed to several factors, such as lack of understanding and seriousness of the pandemic in rural Tamil Nadu, flouting COVID-19 regulations and continuing to gather for weddings and funerals.”

But though COVID-19 cases are on rise in Salem district, it was determined that the district currently had sufficient oxygen beds for emergency cases. Sources added there are 1100 oxygen beds in Salem GH and 500 new oxygen beds have been set up at Salem steel plant, of which only 30 beds have been occupied. Another 500 oxygen beds will be available in the coming days.

However, in the case of Erode district, the number of cases is higher than Salem, posing a greater danger to residents and demanding quick action from officials. Additionally, amidst the surge in cases in Erode district, the number of tests conducted is considerably lower compared to Salem.

As per sources, the district currently is performing 5000-7000 testing per day. As of May 28, the district had vaccinated 2 lakh people above 45 years and 38,000 people between 18-45 years.

In regards to oxygen beds in the district, there are 1,560 beds, of which 910 oxygen beds are at the government medical college and 250 beds at Erode GH. Other GHs in the district have an overall of 100 beds, and private hospitals have about 300 beds, sources said.

Detailing the measures taken, an official with Erode health services said, “To contain the spread of the virus, we have employed one person for every 100 households, that is for seven-lakh ration card holders in the district. The employee will monitor the affected persons and stop them from flouting COVID-19 protocols.”

“Every evening, we hold debriefing sessions with the employees on the ground so that necessary measures can be taken proactively. In a week, the cases will start to reduce.”