CHENNAI: Medical experts on Saturday told the Tamil Nadu government that the state must extend the lockdown to improve upon the moderate success it has earned in the last two weeks in slowing down the Covid-19 growth rate. But more than that, the state must ramp up testing facilities and beds across the state, particularly in tier 2 cities and small towns, they said.
Chief minister M K Stalin met the members of the expert committee along with senior officials.
Over the last one week, the growth of infection has come down, but the positivity rate of the viral infection has increased several folds in most districts.
“It is a clear indicator that we aren’t testing enough,” said Dr Prabhdeep Kaur, deputy director, National Institute of Epidemiology. The state should be doing at least 3.5 lakh tests per day against an average of 1.5 lakh test being conducted now, she said.
“If we cannot ramp up RT-PCR tests, we should start antigen testing in hotspots. This means our surveillance and fever camps must improve,” she told Stalin.
Bed availability continues to remain a problem as most oxygen and ICU beds in hospitals are occupied in all districts. On Friday, for the fourth consecutive day, Tamil Nadu reported the highest number of fresh cases (36,184) and 467 deaths. But health secretary J Radhakrishnan said that the rate of growth of new cases had come down steadily over the last 15 days. “In a span of just 10 days from May 2 to May 12, daily fresh cases increased from 20,000 to 30000 cases a day. But it took eight days for the state to report 35,000 new cases,” he said.
New cases reported by the Chennai is showing a decline in the last one week, along with a marginal decline in the test positivity rate, but all other districts are showing steep increase.
Theni and Chengalpet had a test positivity rate hovering around 30. Seventeen other districts recorded a test positivity rate higher than 20%.
WHO chief scientist Dr Soumya Swaminathan told the government to utilise the lockdown to create better health infrastructure for tracking cases and treating them.
Since most vulnerable people – elderly, pregnant women and people with comorbid conditions – are yet to be covered by vaccination, experts have recommended a programmes and drives to keep them “cocooned”, experts said.