Chennai: Amid a spike in coronavirus cases in people returning to Tamil Nadu from the Nizamuddin religious gathering, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has asserted that the government machinery has been agile in dealing with the crisis.
In an opinion piece in The Hindu, Palaniswami wrote about the measures his government had taken to contain the spread of virus.
“Realising the nature of this virus quite early on and even when this dreaded infection was confined to one country alone, in January 2020, I directed the State Health Department to screen all the international passengers who had arrived in the State.
“To curtail community spread, Amma’s [Jayalalithaa’s] government wasted no time in closing down educational institutions and all high-risk areas such as big commercial complexes, malls, theatres, places of worship and so on, on March 15. When positive cases began showing up in the neighbouring States, I announced the closure of the State’s borders as well, again on March 15.
The Tamil Nadu government made a life-saving decision on March 24, which was announced by me in the Legislative Assembly — of a complete ‘lockdown’ and the imposition of Section 144 of the Code Of Criminal Procedure throughout the State till March 31...."
The CM said as a result of screening more than two lakh passengers, around 43,537 people are under home quarantine and observation, adding that residences of this high-risk category have been identified and subsequently, the officials have pasted stickers in these places.
Palaniswami also highlighted the 'containment plan' his government has come up with.
“Since Tamil Nadu is right now transiting to Stage II of COVID-19 transmission, the State government has in place a detailed ‘Local Containment Plan’ of conducting door-to-door surveillance in the zones where positive cases have been identified. People who are identified through active surveillance will be facility quarantined. Passive surveillance to trace the contacts of positive persons outside the zone is also being undertaken in parallel," he wrote.
The chief minister said to augment the current team of doctors, nurses and para-medical staff to combat the virus, his government decided to recruit 530 doctors, 1,000 nurses and 1,508 lab technicians.
His government also directed the district collectors to get help from self-help groups to manufacture masks, hand sanitizers to cater to the demand of these commodities in the past few weeks.
Palaniswami, in his column, also spoke about the sops his government had announced for the people of the state as well as the migrant workers who have been living in fear and anxiety over the last one week.
"An immediate and comprehensive relief package of ₹3,280 crore has been announced. All rice card holders will receive rice, sugar, dhal and edible oil free for April along with ₹1,000 each. Besides, as a mark of addressing their undue hardship, workers in the unorganised sector including auto-rickshaw drivers will get 15 kg rice, 1 kg dhal, 1 kg oil free and ₹1,000 each. Pavement vendors will get an extra ₹1,000 each. Also, migrant workers from other States will receive the commodities in equal measure. For those migrant labourers who are without shelter, community halls/marriage halls are being utilised, where hot, nutritious cooked food is being provided, apart from medical facilities...," EPS said.
He also added that his government has taken initiatives to help the needy and the senior citizens during this crucial lockdown phase. Apart from this, EPS government had also announced an additional two-day wages for those who come under MGNREGA.
According to the CM, people should practice social distancing during the lockdown phase to tackle coronavirus
EPS said: "For active enforcement of the lockdown and to address the important issues, we have constituted 11 co-ordination teams with senior-level IAS officers. I have also constituted a State-level task force headed by Chief Secretary to monitor the preventive measures. Using video-conferencing, we are frequently reviewing the District Collectors for effective and timely implementation of all the steps... "
All essential services in the state will be available till 2:30pm till April 14. Only parcel services in hotels will be available post that.
While the state's focus now is to take more preventive measures to contain the spread of the deadly virus, EPS says he is concerned about the economic impact of the lockdown.
"However, the economic impact of this unprecedented lockdown is likely to be very severe and State governments will suffer substantial reductions in tax and revenue receipts. A lot of measures will have to be taken to revive economic growth and to stimulate consumption and investment demand.
“The Centre should help the States continuously in this regard. To overcome this crisis, I have therefore written to the Prime Minister, requesting the Centre to allocate a special grant of ₹1-lakh crore to all the States including ₹9,000 crore to Tamil Nadu; relax, as a one-time measure, the fiscal deficit norm of 3% of GSDP for 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 and permit, during 2020-21, additional borrowing of 33% above the previous year’s level...," he said.
However, he ends his column saying that for now, his government's priority is to focus on eradicating the pandemic and once this is over, he hopes that the country as a whole will work together and provide the 'necessary thrust to the economy'.