Chennai: A 19-member expert committee constituted by the Tamil Nadu government to advise it of steps to tackle the COVID-19 crisis on Friday recommended to Chief Minister K Palaniswami that the lockdown be extended by two weeks beyond April 14 considering the rise in number of cases.
The Tamil Nadu Cabinet will meet at 5pm on Saturday to decide on the issue, with Palaniswami waiting for Prime Minister Narendra Modi's decision. Modi will conduct a meeting with all the chief ministers tomorrow via video-conferencing.
A day after Palaniswami said a decision on the extension will be taken based on the committee's recommendation, he also consulted public health experts, including World Health Organization chief scientist Soumya Swaminathan and others via a video link from the Secretariat. The advice of experts like Swaminathan was not known immediately.
Emerging from the meeting, Dr Prabhdeep Kaur, representing the committee, said they have recommended to the state government to extend the lockdown beyond April 14 for 14 days considering the rise in the number of positive cases.
Kaur, a scientist with the Indian Council of Medical Research's National Institute of Epidemiology here, said so far the efforts of the Tamil Nadu government in battling the virus were good and it was appreciated in the meeting.
"The public health system is robust and hence the government has the capacity to detect cases and clusters early and easily and this can be further strengthened and this was discussed," she said.
The government has made "good arrangement" in respect of having adequate number of beds in hospitals to treat coronavirus-infected people and several steps have also been taken vis-a-vis the needs of patients and their family members, she said.
"Many efforts are being taken (by the government) for the safety of doctors, nurses and other health workers who are on the frontline in the fight against the virus. This should be given importance as they could fight the pandemic only if they are well," she said. "Despite all efforts, the number of cases has been increasing so far and in the past week the positive cases was on the rise. All experts feel it will be good if the lockdown is extended for 14 more days and this is the recommendation of the expert committee."
the 14-day period, more testing should be done for people, including contacts of positive people and results should be collected and "based on the data, an informed decision (on ending or further prolonging the lockdown) can be taken two weeks later," she said.
On Thursday, Palaniswami had said a decision on extending the lockdown depended on the advice of the committee of medical experts and the government's 12 panels on tackling the COVID-19 scenario.
To a question, he had said: "We are now in stage two, there is a chance for progression into stage three and the government is taking all steps to confine the infection to stage two."
(With inputs from PTI)