Tamil Nadu Fisheries Minister D Jayakaumar on Thursday, told the media that a decision on another complete lockdown in Chennai rests in the hands of a panel of public health and medical experts constituted by the state government. The Minister said that all lockdowns in the state so far were based on their advice and any further restrictions will be based on their feedback to the Chief Minister.
At a press conference on Thursday, the Minister when asked about a possible extension in the lockdown, said, "It depends on the situation. We are announcing lockdowns based on what the expert panel says. Only the panel can decide on this."
He further reiterated that there was no community transmission in the state.
"The Chief Minister has stated that there is no community transmission. In Chennai, slum pockets have seen more cases and action has been taken to control the spread there. The government will take a call on lockdown based on what the expert committee says. But right now, how things proceed, depends on people. The government is doing its job but people have to wear masks and maintain physical distancing," the Minister added.
The Minister's statement comes at a time when Whatsapp groups across the state are buzzing with forwards on alleged plans to impose a complete lockdown in Chennai. Residents are being told that they must stock up dry food and that all gates will be sealed in and out of Chennai. These social media messages also claim that e-passes will not be issued and that flights and trains for the next 10 days will be stopped. People forwarding these unsubstantiated messages claim that this information is from the Secretariat and applies to Chennai and its surrounding districts.
Sources in the AIADMK have also however dismissed these claims and said that another lockdown may not be financially feasible.
The Madras High Court meanwhile has asked the Tamil Nadu government to inform the court if there were any plans to impose another lockdown in Chennai. A bench comprising Justices Vineeth Kothari and Suresh Kumar asked the government pleader Jayaprakash Narayanan about the possibility of another lockdown and about what difference in restrictions they could expect. The judges said they were asking these questions as residents of the state and keeping in mind the welfare of people.
In response to this, the government pleader stated that he would have to get the state government's remarks on this and present it in court. The bench has directed the state government to give its answer on Friday.
Tamil Nadu has recorded over 36,000 cases of the virus as of Wednesday of which close to 26,000 cases are from Chennai. The total number of deaths so far is 326, according to the latest bulletin.