Lockdown extension not needed in Tamil Nadu: Expert panel

An expert panel member said that lockdown alone is not the solution, and that the state cannot be under lockdown forever

COVID-19 lockodwn
The government had re-imposed intense lockdown in Chennai and parts of neighbouring Chengelpet, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram. Photo for representative purpose only: PTI

The expert committee set up to advise the Tamil Nadu government on tackling the COVID-19 crisis has favoured restrictions based on the scenario in specific regions and has not recommended extension of the lockdown in the state.

the expert panel also wanted the ‘successful initiative’ of holding fever camps in the city to be extended to other parts of the state as well, Dr Prabhdeep Kaur of the National Institute of Epidemiology-ICMR said after taking part in a meeting chaired by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami.

The camps helped in early detection and consequent increase in doubling time of coronavirus cases with the trend becoming favourable in the city, she said. Rather than extending lockdown, restrictions may be considered after an assessment of the scenario in specific regions.

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“Our committee did not recommend lockdown. It is called a blunt instrument. Though not the best solution, it is needed sometimes. In Chennai, the lockdown has helped to increase doubling time (of cases) and slowing down transmission. But lockdown alone is not the solution for COVID-19 and we cannot be under lockdown forever,” she said.

As of June 28, the state has 82,275 COVID-19 cases while the toll stood at 1,079. After announcing relaxations, including partial resumption of public transport services, as part of Unlock-1 across the state from June 1, the government had re-imposed intense lockdown in Chennai and parts of neighbouring Chengelpet, Tiruvallur and Kancheepuram.

Kaur, an epidemiologist, said that instead of lockdown, tightening restrictions may be considered and fever camps could be held after considering factors including case growth, number of deaths, doubling time, positivity rate and bed occupancy.

An important suggestion of the panel to increase tests has been accepted and about 10,000 tests were being done now in Chennai, she said. Similarly, testing has improved overall in Tamil Nadu and approximately, 32,000 tests (confirmatory, RT-PCR tests) were being done each day, the expert said. Testing is important for early diagnosis and treatment.

In the last two weeks, in cities like Tiruchirappalli, Madurai, Vellore, and Tiruvannamalai there was an “upward trend,” she said, referring to rising cases and underscored that doubling time in such areas has come down too. Chennai’s successful initiative of holding fever camps should be extended to such regions as well, she said.

The camps have helped detect more cases and the trend is becoming favourable in Chennai as the doubling time has increased due to more detection of cases.

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The rise in doubling time was good there had been a slow down in transmission and this trend needed to be sustained and people should cooperate and the present initiatives like fever camps should go on. More cases were likely with more tests and the rise in numbers should not be a cause for concern and the focus must continue to be on preventing deaths through early detection.

On May 31, the state government announced further extension of the COVID-19 lockdown till June 30 but with more relaxations including partially opening up public transport and allowing more employees at workplace. Public transport bus services had not been allowed in Chennai and three neighbouring districts. The curbs on religious places, inter-state bus transport, and Metro and suburban rails, however, remained as it were from March 24.

(With inputs from agencies)

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