Tamil Nadu will consider further relaxations across districts other than Chennai, subject to directions from the Centre, in a bit to align with the larger roadmap of a staggered withdrawal of the lockdown.
The capital city of Chennai, however, remains a constant worry, according to state administrators in charge of containing the coronavirus outbreak in the state. The metropolis and a few other districts continue to be a challenge for bureaucrats due to the impact of the Koyambedu cluster.
Tamil Nadu has, by now, institutionalised the protocol for handling containment zones: disinfectants and strict controls along borders and streamlining supply of essentials.
Still, the number of containment areas in red zones have been surging. At its last count, Chennai had 690 such zones. Even after 50 days of the lockdown, bureaucrats are uncertain about outcomes and exercising extreme caution.
“Given our culture and behaviour, social spread is inevitable and we should prepare ourselves to face it head on. This lockdown has slowed down the spread to some extent. But we have to slowly open up activities so that our future focus will shift from aggressive testing to early identification of symptoms to test and treat for reducing mortality,” an official said.
Over the weeks since the beginning of the lockdown, officials had moved goalposts from “stamping out the virus” to “containing it within the cordoned-off zones.”
With surging cases and a falling economy, Tamil Nadu is looking to remove curbs and focus on protecting its elderly citizens. “We should target those with co-morbidities, non-communicable diseases and falling in high-risk categories. Many others may contract the virus and develop the necessary immunity unnoticed…” said a senior bureaucrat.
This furthers the state administration’s decision to send asymptomatic patients to home quarantine in a bid to free up healthcare infrastructure.
After having been largely aligned with the Centre’s playbook for containment, Tamil Nadu is slowly beginning to differ with the Narendra Modi government on relaxations.
Chief Minster E Palaniswami told the PM on Monday that it was best to leave Tamil Nadu out of the railway reopening plan.
However, after it was decided that the two trains slated from Tamil Nadu will not be cancelled, Palaniswami has now written to Home Minister Amit Shah and Railways Minister Piyush Goyal on testing and quarantining all passengers in the two trains.
Administratively, the state had faced another setback in its decision to reopen liquor stores. After the Madras High Court ordered the shutting down of shops following a petition, the state government has moved the Supreme Court. “The case may be slated for Friday,” said a senior official in the state’s law department.