Amid a high number of new COVID-19 cases being reported from Madurai district over the last couple of weeks, the district administration seems to have used the extended lockdown period to spruce up the health infrastructure.
The number of new COVID-19 cases in Madurai district has been on the rise since July 1. Of the 6,539 COVID-19 positive cases reported from the district as of July 13, 3,989 patients have been reported after July 1. This is a whopping 61% of the total number of positive cases reported so far in the district. As of Monday, 3,803 patients are being treated for the disease in the districtâ€™s hospitals, COVID care centres and in home isolation. Over the last 13 days, 88 patients who were undergoing treatment for COVID-19 have died in the district.
The city and parts of its outskirts â€” panchayat unions of Paravai, Madurai East, Madurai West and village panchayats in Tirupparankundram â€” have been on multiple lockdowns so far: intensified lockdown from April 26 to April 29 (Madurai corporation limits only) and from June 24 to July 12. The latest lockdown was extended by two more days till July 14.
COVID-19 infrastructure ramped up
Speaking to TNM, the district administration said that it has used the lockdown period to amp up the infrastructure needed to deal with the increasing number of COVID-19 cases reported from Madurai.
Apart from around 1,600 beds in government hospitals, including the Madurai Government Rajaji Hospital (which is attached to the Madurai Medical College), 10 more private hospitals have expressed interest to take in and treat COVID-19 patients, TG Vinay, district collector of Madurai, told TNM.
â€śAltogether, the private sector will be able to provide around 700 beds in the hospitals for COVID-19 treatment. Apart from that, we have COVID care centres across the district which have a capacity of 2,000 beds,â€ť he said.
These care centres were earlier used as quarantine centres for inter-state passengers in Madurai. He said that around 2,000 beds are being added to the COVID care centres at facilities like college hostels and tech parks, which will be available for use from July 18.
B Chandra Mohan, the special monitoring officer for COVID-19 in Madurai district, informed TNM that bed occupancy in the district as of Tuesday is less than 50%.
â€śWe have around 4,000 beds across categories of healthcare facilities in Madurai â€” hospitals, COVID health centres (for moderate cases) and COVID care centres (for mild and asymptomatic cases). 1,719 beds have been occupied. The district has 661 oxygen beds for patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19 and we are adding 350 more such beds in a weekâ€™s time. The occupancy in those beds are not 50% yet either. Hence, I can say we are prepared to handle any kind of surge in the number of patients being reported from the district,â€ť he added.
Madurai district currently has 1,196 patients undergoing treatment for COVID-19 in home isolation.
Impact of lockdown
Apart from ramping up facilities, the Madurai district administration has used the lockdown period to increase the testing by 100%.
â€śEarlier, we were testing around 1,500 persons in a day. Now, we are testing 3,000 persons a day minimum. This increased testing has led to early detection of cases and also finding out mild cases, which has contributed to the rise in numbers reported,â€ť TG Vinay explained.
Madurai district has also put in place fever clinics similar to Chennai; the state capital adopted this strategy when cases were steadily on the rise.
â€śWe have around 150 clinics within Corporation limits and 150 in the rest of the district. Each of these clinics screen around 50-100 persons everyday, which has also helped us immensely to track symptomatic cases of COVID-19 early,â€ť the collector added.
The district collector said that the higher number of tests and the restriction in movement due to the lockdown has helped officials carry out contact tracing for more people in Madurai.
Challenge still remains
When asked about the greatest challenge facing the district at present, Vinay said, â€śFrom our side, I have just a few simple requests. Always wear a mask, wherever you are. It helps a lot to protect ourselves from the disease. Maintain physical distance when you come out of your houses to any public area.â€ť
He added that people showing any one of the COVID-19 symptoms even for a single day can get themselves screened in the fever clinics and be evaluated by doctors.
Chandra Mohan emphasised the need to stress on the behavioural change communication campaigns in Madurai. â€śWe are now focusing a lot on campaigning about behavioural changes that need to happen among the people like wearing masks and handwashing. It is a fact that by adopting these changes, people can safeguard themselves from the infection,â€ť the district monitoring officer added.