As a fresh COVID-19 death was reported in Tamil Nadu, taking the death toll in the state to 15 on Thursday (April 16), Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami described COVID-19 as a “disease of the rich” and a “big challenge”.
He also said the state has managed to contain the spread of the contagion as the daily positive cases were showing a dip.
A committee under Finance Secretary S Krishnan has been formed to devise the exit strategy post May 3 when the extended lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to end, he said.
The exit strategy could be a phased one, he said, adding that the committee will also discuss on finalising what industries may be allowed to function after April 20, as permitted by the Centre.
On Thursday, the state reported a fresh COVID-19 death while 25 more people tested positive for the disease, taking the toll to 15 and total cases to 1,267, Palaniswami said.
“This disease is a big challenge,” the chief minister told a press conference after chairing a meeting of district collectors to take stock of the preventive measures being implemented across the state.
Related news | For better COVID-19 care, people from Tamil Nadu seek to move to Kerala
As many as 180 people have been discharged so far, as against the 118 on Wednesday, he said.
Palaniswami said the lower number of fresh cases showed the government was containing the spread of the contagion.
Fresh cases on Wednesday (April 15) stood at 38, a little more than Tuesday’s (April 14) tally of 31, unlike higher numbers seen earlier in the week. The state had reported 98 fresh cases on Monday and 106 on Sunday (April 12).
As many as 87 lakh people had been screened in 558 containment zones in the state.
So far, 11 doctors, including six government ones, have been infected with the virus and this number was less compared to other states like Delhi and Mumbai, he said.
Further, it was a “disease of the rich,” he said, indicating it has largely affected the affluent. “It is a disease of the rich. People who had travelled abroad or to other states have imported it (to Tamil Nadu). It did not originate here,” he said.
Related news | TM Krishna asks celebrities to ‘shut up’ and stay put in fancy houses
Divulging details and statistics to explain the states fight against COVID-19, the chief minister said it took an early lead by launching screening of air passengers and placing orders for personal protective equipment as early as in January.
There were adequate stocks of ventilators, PPE and masks while enough strength of health workers has been ensured, including new appointments. Further orders have also been placed.
The rapid test kits ordered by the state with China have been “diverted to another nation,” and even Centre was awaiting the consignment, he said.
The state was in the second stage of the spread and today’s new number of cases of 25 against 38 yesterday showed the state has managed to contain it, he said.
He expressed hope the number will soon touch zero as the rate of people getting cured was also increasing.
Further, extending government support to journalists, he said it will bear all the expenses incurred if they contracted the virus and would provide an ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh in the event of their “unfortunate death.”
Related news | 941 COVID-19 cases, 37 deaths in last 24 hours: Health Ministry
These will apply to accredited journalists, he added.
Meanwhile, Jamaat leaders met the state chief secretary on Thursday regarding the celebrations for Ramadan. The state chief secretary declared that the government would provide rice to mosques to prepare the Ramadan porridge, and that it would be distributed to houses through a token system. The prayers, however, must be carried out at people’s own houses.
Furthermore, hitting out at the opposition DMK for its criticism of the government over the handling of the contagion, the chief minister accused its president M K Stalin of finding fault during any disaster, including the earlier cyclones in the state like Gaja and Ockhi.
“This is a planned criticism as we are effectively containing the spread,” he said and wondered what the 38 Lok Sabha MPs of the DMK and its allies had done for Tamil Nadu in the state though “people have elected them to do something.”
A similar criticism was made against the AIADMK by the DMK when the former had 37 of the 39 MPs from the state in the previous Lok Sabha, Palaniswami said.
“DMK is a party which only criticises,” he said and added that this was not the case with other states. He regretted that there was “politics over a disease” in Tamil Nadu.
Related news | TN Health Minister Vijayabaskar returns to press briefings after a gap
To a question, Palaniswami said peoples essential needs, including of those in the containment zones, were being taken care of by the government.
This included cash assistance and provisions of free rice and pulses to rice ration card holders and financial help to those in the unorganised sector.
About 13,000 migrant labourers were lodged in 311 facilites and their needs were being taken care of, he added.
The police were also strictly enforing the lockdown, with the authorities having clamped Section 144 of the CrPC, which bars assembly of more than five people, for this purpose.
Police have filed 1.94 lakh cases and arrested over two lakh people for lockdown violations, besides seizing 1.79 lakh vehicles, he said. A sum of Rs 89 lakh has been collected as fine.
Meanwhile, the police announced returning the seized vehicles and said this will be done after verifying the documents. The process will be carried out at the local police station limits and the vehicles will be returned to owners after informing them, police said.