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Tamil Nadu is containing Covid-19 well, and it is not following Bhilwara model

Tamil Nadu Health Secretary Beela Rajesh says aggressive contact-tracing, quarantining over a lakh people and the lockdown worked in their favour.

Dr Beela Rajesh, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary
Dr Beela Rajesh, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary | Twitter | @DrBeelaIAS

New Delhi: Tamil Nadu, which is one of the worst-hit states by the fallout of the Tablighi Jamaat event, seems to have contained the Covid-19 outbreak well as it reported less than 40 new cases consecutively for three days until Thursday.

A total of 25 patients tested positive for Covid-19 Thursday — taking the state’s overall tally to 1,267, Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami said in Chennai.

Out of the total cases, over 1,134 — around 90 per cent — are linked to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation held in New Delhi, Dr Beela Rajesh, Tamil Nadu Health Secretary, told ThePrint.

So what worked for the Tamil Nadu government in preventing the spread of the virus? 

“(It is) Not the Bhilwara model,” said Rajesh.

The ‘Bhilwara model’ in Rajasthan has been so successful in curbing the spread of Covid-19 in a hotspot that the central government has asked states to replicate its mantra of “ruthless containment”.

But Tamil Nadu, Rajesh said, is preventing the spread of the virus through “collective action by government machinery”, aggressive contact-tracing and by quarantining over a lakh people.

“Bhilwara model was designed after cases started erupting. The model that Tamil Nadu followed was designed when the first individual was found positive. We didn’t wait for clusters to develop. The collective action by the government machinery to contain the spread for every single positive case worked for us,” she added. 

Rajesh said the state followed an aggressive contact-tracing, testing and surveillance model, which worked well along with the national lockdown.

“Our contact tracing was at another level, which put over a lakh in isolation,” she added.

Also read: Palaniswami-led Tamil Nadu govt springs surprise with stellar Covid-19 crisis management

Focus was on ‘vulnerable groups’ 

The Covid-19 outbreak has hit several important medical services such as dialysis, care of pregnant women and blood donation in various parts of the country. But Tamil Nadu didn’t let that happen.

“Tamil Nadu’s strategy focused on everyone, including the vulnerable groups, where the government proactively created micro-plans for every category from the very beginning,” said Rajesh.

“We identified the vulnerable group of population, including the pregnant ladies, people with dialysis requirements, AIDS and TB (tuberculosis) patients along with those with regular requirements of blood transfusion.”

For instance, there were around 1.5 lakh pregnant women in the state, out of which 35,000 have already delivered safely.

The state identified the high-risk pregnant women and admitted them to hospitals in advance. Similarly, medicines for two months were delivered in advance to all TB and HIV patients, Rajesh said.

“We have around 2,900 patients who require dialysis twice a week. For them, the state has availed the ambulance facilities for pick and drop to hospitals,” she added. 

The state has also undertaken the “death audit” under which each death is being analysed. 

“Our data is similar to the national and global trend. High death is among elderly, 69+ individuals and those with comorbidities. We have also noticed that people survive more on oxygen therapy than when put on ventilators,” said Rajesh.

Comorbidity is the simultaneous presence of more than one health disorder in a person. These disorders may exist independent of each other, or may be interlinked due to the same underlying causes.

Aggressive contact-tracing 

The health secretary claimed that the aggressive contact-tracing exercise worked in their favour. 

The state had involved several departments, including the police and revenue, to trace people even after they were cleared by the airport authorities. 

“We took the immigration data from the airports and traced the inter-state travellers. Due to the aggressive tracing, our numbers on quarantining people were very high. With just 20,000 international travellers, we had around a lakh people in quarantine.” 

Rajesh also said the national lockdown has played a critical role in containing the spread of the disease.

“India is doing fairly well in preventing the spread. And national lockdown plays a very critical role. But we must not feel that we have achieved the goal. It’s a long journey,” Rajesh said.

Also read: Let the young out, and India build herd immunity to beat the virus: Top epidemiologist