Dr Jacob John, reputed virologist and former professor of CMC Vellore explains that COVID-19 cases are only bound to spread in Chennai irrespective of where it is currently concentrated.

Chennai corporation Fever Camp
Coronavirus Coronavirus Monday, June 22, 2020 - 16:00

Chennai has 17,683 active COVID-19 cases as of June 22 morning. Taking a look at the zone-wise distribution of cases, six out of 15 zones account for over 12,000 patients in the city.

Four zones have over 2000 active COVID-19 cases each in the city. Tondiarpet and Royapuram zones have the most - while Tondiarpet has 2351 active COVID-19 cases, Royapuram has 2337. Anna Nagar has 2193 active COVID-19 cases and Teynampet has 2072 active COVID-19 cases.

While Kodambakkam has 1934 active patients, Thiru Vi Ka Nagar has 1259, thereby making the total in just these six zones- 12146.

Adyar has 1104 active COVID-19 cases. The remaining eight zones have less than 1000 active COVID-19 cases each.

‘Will spread to more areas’

Dr Jacob John, a reputed virologist and a former professor at Chrisitian Medical College (CMC), Vellore explains that COVID-19 cases are only bound to spread in Chennai irrespective of where it is currently concentrated.

“The density of the population will automatically encourage spread. That is why cities are vulnerable. Cases in Chennai are being amplified and that will have a spillover effect onto the neighbouring areas. The infections will only grow, even in the areas with lower prevalence. It is like water flowing down the gradient. Whenever uninfected people are available, the virus will catch because it is widespread in Chennai,” he explains. Interestingly, when the virus began spreading in Chennai, north Chennai emerged as a hotspot. Consequently hotspots have changed to other areas.

Dr Jacob insists on wearing face masks and practise of personal hygiene to control the spread of the virus and warns that people in villages should be educated for when the time comes. “Now the infection is shifting into districts. In districts also, it is now mainly towns. Next phase it will spread to villages. Now is the time to teach the villagers to change their behaviour. Government should not just enforce the wearing of face masks. People have to be educated why they should be doing it,” he adds.

‘Early detection a good sign’

The silver lining is that a majority of COVID0-19 cases reported from the six vulnerable areas in Chennai in recent times are those who were identified by Corporation officials through their camps. In just one day, between June 20 and 21, Anna Nagar reported a spike of 100 new COVID-19 cases.

Speaking to TNM Regional Deputy Commissioner of Central Chennai Sridhar says Anna Nagar, Teynampet and Kodambakkam zones have divisions that have been reporting a high number of cases lately. “All those areas we are conducting fever camps. In addition to thermal scanners, we also have the pulse oximeter made available. These are likely vulnerable areas. We also are strong on the house to house surveys and mobile medical units,” he explains.

“These zones have both densely packed neighbourhoods and quiet neighbourhoods. People are coming forward to attend our fever camps. Early detection of symptoms is doing well so far. Having analysed the testing data from just one day, I was able to find that COVID-19 cases have been identified because of our early detection measures. Almost 70% of the Influenza Like Illness (ILI) cases turned positive for the COVID19 disease. This detection is always a good sign,” he adds.

Chennai’s containment zones

According to Greater Chennai Corporation’s Public Health Department, Chennai has a total number of 61 containment areas in its 15 zones as of June 22 morning. These containment areas are concentrated only in eight zones in the city - Tondiarpet, Thiru Vi Ka Nagar, Ambattur, Anna Nagar, Teynampet, Kodambakkam, Perungudi and Sholinganallur. The remaining seven zones in Chennai do not have any containment areas. According to GCC Commissioner G Prakash there are over 1.20 lakh houses sealed individually for containment as of June 22.

Notably, Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) issued new guidelines for demarcating containment areas on May 18. As per the new guidelines, only an area that has more than five positive primary COVID-19 cases or more than five families infected with the disease will become a containment area and will be demarcated. If no new cases are reported in over 14-days, containment operations will seize in the containment area. 

Among the 61, there are 12 areas that have been under containment since May 28 and this indicates that concentration of COVID-19 cases are high in these areas, with cases not abating even after 14-days.

The 12 containment areas are: Saf Games Village in Koyambedu, Mothilal Street in T Nagar, Sanjai Gandhi Street in MGR Nagar have been under containment since May 28. Gangaiamman Kovil Street in Vadapalani and New Boak Road in Kodambakkam have been under containment since May 29. Azad Nagar first, second and third streets, Quide-Millath Street in Anna Nagar were brought under containment on May 30 and have been a hotspot since. Velunachiyar Street, MGR Nagar Karunanidhi Nagar; Annamalai Nagar, Third Street, West Mambalam and Bazar Road in Saidapet have been under containment since May 31. Except these 12 places, the remaining 49 areas were made into containment zones only in June.

Details of other containment areas are as follows: Tondiarpet zone has 24 containment areas, Kodambakkam has 15 containment areas, Anna Nagar has eight containment areas, Sholinganallur has four containment areas, Thiru Vi Ka Nagar and Teynampet have three containment areas each, and Ambattur and Perungudi have two containment areas each. 

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