Chennai under 12-day lockdown from Friday; experts say ‘need more planning’

Even as all of India is under ‘unlock’ phase beginning June, Chennai and its three adjoining districts will be under a 12-day lockdown starting Friday (June 19) early morning till June 30. Tamil Nadu has become the only state to announce a strict lockdown which is based on the suggestions of a medical committee. 

A member of the expert committee that is advising the State government told WION that the panel had only suggested a few specific strategies and not a lockdown. But the government had decided to go in for a shut down based on the decisions taken at their cabinet meeting. 

The senior medical professional emphasised that the government needed to focus on better inter-department coordination and monitor ground-level implementation of its initiatives. The committee had also suggested that the government go in for rapid testing and more mobile clinics. 

As COVID-19 cases in the state surpass 52,000, experts say that the government needs to plan and execute many more steps in tandem with the lockdown. These steps are highly crucial at a time when the state has been seeing over 2000 new cases for the last two days.

Specialist in Infectious Diseases Dr. Subramanian Swaminathan said that a 12-day lockdown alone would be inadequate to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. “To interrupt transmission, mathematical models suggest at least a three week lockdown. We also need a clear audit process to verify the grassroots data that health workers are collecting on a door-to-door basis. Only when we have authentic data can the authorities plan adequately and take measures” he said. 

When asked about the top precautions that the public must follow during the lockdown, Dr. Swaminathan emphasised on the need for wearing masks and following social distancing rules. “In most areas with high cases, people are not wearing masks, that’s why there is an explosion of cases. When we compare between disinfectant spraying and wearing of masks, mask-wearing is more important in controlling transmission at source,” he said. 

Public health experts reiterated the view that lockdowns need to be bolstered with additional measures, which need to be strictly implemented at the ground level. They feel that the public has the larger responsibility of following basic cleanliness and health practices to keep danger at bay.

“Washing out hands with soap is far more effective than using sanitizers. Sanitizers can be used for disinfecting medical equipment, personal belongings, billing counters etc. We must keep the elderly people indoors and ensure that they take their medication (for existing heath issues) regularly, besides eating healthy food. Health workers on door-to-door campaigns can also use pulse oximeters to check the health of those who are vulnerable” Dr. Kolandaisamy, Retired Director of Public Health, said. 

Lockdowns are not just about restrictions, but about performing more tests and tracing, isolating the affected individuals. “Tamil Nadu has done nearly 25,000 tests on Wednesday alone and it is a significant number. The authorities have been talking about scaling up efforts in coming days. When this is done consistently for about a month or more, then definitely we will be able to bring the situation under control” said Healthcare Consultant and Senior journalist Dr. Sumanth C Raman. 

While mask wearing is important, doctors don’t recommend the N-95 and 3-ply masks for common people. They say that two-layered, washable cotton masks would be adequate, whereas a dupatta or a handkerchief would not be advised. 

The announcement for the 12-day lockdown was made on Monday, and had come as a surprise to the people of Tamil Nadu as the Chief Minister E Palaniswami himslef had called talks of an impending lockdown in the state as “rumors”, only to make a flip-flop on Monday. 

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