COVID sweeps across small towns, rural areas in Tamil Nadu

Positivity rate in many districts goes beyond 20%, experts stress more testing and rigorous implementation of lockdown

A COVID test is being conducted in Vellore. Experts say testing should be ramped up in small towns and rural areas. PTI Photo

The second COVID wave in Tamil Nadu is spreading fast. The number of positive cases has increased in small towns and rural areas between May 9 and 15. Districts such as Krishnagiri and Tiruvannamalai, which had a positivity rate of less than 20 per cent in the previous weeks of May, now have the rate above 20%.

Among the districts, Chengalpet has the maximum positivity rate of 32% and Vellore district has the lowest at 11% based on the testing data presented by the districts.

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Positivity rate refers to the percentage of cases turning positive to the total number of cases tested on any day.

A comparison of data for districts between May 2 and 8, and 9 and 15, shows the positivity rate has doubled. For example, in Kanyakumari district, the positivity rate was 13 between May 2 and 8, but between May 9 and 15, the rate has gone up to 26. Even in Chengalpet, the positivity rate between May 2 and 8 was 22.2 per cent, but in the last week it has hit a record 32.1%.

While there is an increase in the positivity rate across all districts, its spread in small towns and semi-rural areas is more pronounced, for instance, in Krishnagiri, Cuddalore, Nagapattinam and Virudhunagar.

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“While in cities like Chennai, the police are able to make people obey COVID norms, in semi-rural and semi-urban areas, people refuse to wear masks and despite a lockdown, they come out in large numbers,” says a senior health department official.

At the start of this month, Tirunelveli and Tuticorin had the maximum positivity rate of 23% followed by Chennai with 20%. But in the last week, more districts have reported an increase in the rate.

“The next few weeks are crucial as the number of cases is expected to increase and hit the peak. We must not lower our guard and wear masks/double masks and avoid crowd places,” said the official.

Experts say the testing must double, going by the positivity rate. “Each day, around 1.50 lakh people are tested and more than 30,000 turn positive. Thus if one positive person had contacts with 10 persons, then the total tests must be around 3 lakh daily. Though the number of positive cases is increasing, the number of tests has not increased,” said an analyst.

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