Rise in COVID-19 Cases Slows in Chennai, Other Districts Spike

‘Highest single day spike,’ has become a regular phenomenon with coronavirus cases increasing rapidly in Tamil Nadu.

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Coronavirus
7 min read
‘Highest single day spike,’ has become a regular phenomenon with coronavirus cases increasing rapidly in Tamil Nadu. 
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‘Highest single day spike,’ has become a regular phenomenon with coronavirus cases increasing rapidly in Tamil Nadu, making it the second worst affected state after Maharashtra. On 20 July, 4,985 COVID-19 cases were reported in the state, of which 1,298 cases were from Chennai.

The total number of cases in the state has risen to 1,75,678, with 1,21,776 persons discharged and 2,551 deaths so far.

However, though the numbers seem to be an all-time high, it must be observed that the testing count has increased exponentially and the number of cases has dipped in the state capital. Several other districts are now observing a steady rise.

FIT has done a deep-dive to understand how coronavirus cases are increasing in the state, how the government has been handling the crisis and if the state’s strategy to increase testing has helped contain the spread.

Analysis of COVID-19 Cases in Tamil Nadu

Of 19,84,579 coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu, 1,06,828 are men, 68,827 are women and 23 are transgender persons. There are 51,348 active cases in the state, as on 20 July.

Looking at the the trend, the state took about 60 days for positive cases to cross the 5,000 mark whereas it took a mere eight days to cross the 10,000 mark and another eight days to cross the 15,000 mark.

Comparison of COVID-19 cases, active cases, discharge and death toll in Tamil Nadu so far.
Comparison of COVID-19 cases, active cases, discharge and death toll in Tamil Nadu so far.
(Photo Courtesy: stopcoronatn)
Day-wise positive cases in Tamil Nadu as on 19 July.
Day-wise positive cases in Tamil Nadu as on 19 July.
(Photo Courtesy: stopcoronatn)

The age-wise data of COVID-19 patients provided by the state shows that there are 8,776 children below 12 years of age, 1,45,220 cases between the 13-60 age group and 21,682 cases are senior citizens who are above 60 years of age.

Age and gender wise distribution of COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu as on 20 July.
Age and gender wise distribution of COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu as on 20 July.
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health Department)
Gender wise distribution of COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu as on 20 July.
Gender wise distribution of COVID-19 cases in Tamil Nadu as on 20 July.
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health Department)

First it was the Tablighi Jamaat cluster, which had been the source of major headlines. The number of cases were 1,350, with 631 primary contacts infecting 719 close contacts. Second, was the Koyambedu wholesale market super spreader that snowballed into such a massive crisis that the state government decided that a lockdown was the only way to contain the spread of the virus.

Then the key sources of infections became those who had returned from foreign countries and other states. Though the state government has denied "community spread," experts have said that the huge spike in cases proves this wrong.

Doubling Time of COVID-19 in Chennai Half of the Average

Towards the end of April, Chennai was recording over 530 cases everyday, the cumulative number rose to 5,947 by 15 May, 14,799 by 31 May, 33,244 by 15 June, 58,327 by 30 June and 80,961 by 15 July.

Of 1,75,678 cases in the state, 87,235 are from Chennai. However, what needs to be observed is that in contrast to 2,000-2,500 cases recorded everyday in June, the number has significantly dropped to 1,200-1,700 cases daily in the state capital.

The doubling time of COVID-19 in Chennai is now at 47 days, compared to the national average of doubling time that is 21 days. Doubling time refers to the time taken for the number of infections to double from a given day.

Greater Chennai Corporation Commissioner G Prakash on 19 July said that they are working to bring down the positivity rate in the city from 10-12% to 8-10%. Positivity rate is the number of persons testing positive against the total number of persons being tested.

Chennai has begun serosurvey, by which healthcare professionals will directly collect random blood samples from 12,000 persons at their residences in the next 10 days.

According to a report in The Hindu, in a serosurvey conducted several weeks ago, ICMR had found that 2% of Chennai’s residents had been exposed to to novel coronavirus infection. But a serosurvey conducted for Corporation staff on Thursday showed that 15% to 20% of them were exposed to SARS-CoV-2.

Sudden Spike in Other Districts Since Lockdown Was Relaxed

While May to June saw many districts record single-digit number of cases and some days even zero, July saw many districts climb the ladder.

As on 19 July, in terms of number of COVID-19 cases recorded, Chennai is followed by Chengalpattu (9,658), Thiruvallur (9,110), Madurai (8,251), Kancheepuram (4,739), Vellore (3,948), Thiruvannamalai (3,916), Thoothukudi (3,441) and Virudhunagar (3,393).

When the complete lockdown was lifted in the state, travel of passengers was facilitated by road, rail, air and sea. A number of people who were stranded, had lost their jobs, due to health reasons returned to their hometowns in these districts.

Of 4,02,603 passengers who have entered Tamil Nadu till 19 July, 4,843 have tested positive for COVID-19, as on 19 July.

Of 4,02,603 passengers who have entered Tamil Nadu till 19 July, 4,843 have tested positive for COVID-19.
Of 4,02,603 passengers who have entered Tamil Nadu till 19 July, 4,843 have tested positive for COVID-19.
(Photo Courtesy: Tamil Nadu Health Department) 

The Next Three in Line

Chengalpattu

The district has found its position on the national map of districts witnessing a surge in coronavirus cases. Due to its proximity to Chennai, the spread of the virus has been rampant in the peripheral areas of Pammal, Pallavaram, Pozhichalur and Tambaram. Chengalpattu is an industry hub, and hosts production plants of companies such as Tech Mahindra, Wipro, Dell, Samsung and Apollo Tyres.

With 7,276 persons discharged, there are 2,549 active cases and 201 deaths have been recorded as on 20 July. With infrastructure challenges of healthcare facilities and transport, the authorities are working on expanding the number of beds, ventilators and COVID care centres.

Thiruvallur

Located in the north of Chennai, the district is also home to factories and industrial estates. Most cases recorded are of those traveling from Chennai or have been in contact with someone from the state capital. Police have also developed an app called CoBuddy for local residents who have COVID-19 or are suspected to have the disease.

As on 20 July, 5,799 persons have been discharged, 3,457 active cases recorded and 168 deaths in the district.

Madurai

Madurai saw a dip in the number of cases as 185 patients tested positive for COVID-19 on 19 July and 106 on 20 July. This comes after eight days of recording more than 200 cases since 10 July. The tally of cases has reached 8,357.

The district moved to fourth position in the state with 3,263 active cases, 4,934 persons discharged and 160 deaths.

The state government had extended the intensified lockdown in the state till 14 July. The COVID-19 positivity rate in Madurai has significantly reduced from around 18% before the intensified lockdown to 8% post the lockdown, said District Monitoring Officer B Chandra Mohan. The positivity rate has reduced because of increased testing that was intensified during the lockdown, he added.

Ramped-up Testing

During the initial period of the pandemic, the state was criticised for the low number of testing done.

In the first week of April, the state tested around 2,700 samples, and by the end of April, the number of persons tested was 9,643. By 15 May, the number of persons tested everyday rose to 10,883, 12,049 on 31 May, 18,403 on 15 June, 30,053 on 30 June and 39,715 on 15 July.

By 20 July, the state had reached an all-time high by testing more than 50,000 persons everyday.

The Tamil Nadu health department has told that people should not panic because the increase in testing had led to early detection, which is evident in the increase in the number of cases.

As on 20 July, there are a total of 112 -- 57 government and 55 private -- COVID -19 testing facilities in the state. 51,348 persons are undergoing treatment at home.

Low Mortality Rate, High Recovery Rate Helping TN

The mortality rate in the state has been quite low compared to most states and even some foreign countries. While the national average is 2.2%, the state records a figure of 1.45%.

Here is an illustration to understand the increase in the number of deaths in the state:

Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami has said that 86 per cent of COVID-19 cases in the state are asymptomatic.

From early May, the state government allowed treatment for coronavirus at home for people with mild symptoms and issued guidelines for the same.

The state has a recorded a good recovery rate as well, with 1,21,776 persons discharged of 1,75,678 persons infected so far, as reported on 20 July.

Here is an illustration of the number of COVID-19 cases recorded and persons discharged till 19 July:

(The article was first published on FIT.)

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