Chennai remains Tamil Nadu’s epicentre of Covid-19. Of the 203 fresh cases the State registered on Friday (1 May), Chennai accounted for 176, taking its cumulative total to 1,082.
Chief Minister Edappadi Palaniswamy has appointed senior IAS officer J Radhakrishnan, Principal Secretary for Revenue Administration, Disaster Management and Mitigation, as Special Nodal Officer for Chennai, and five senior IPS officers, to ensure the capital city becomes coronavirus-free.
Convinced the stringent lockdown in force since 24 March was the answer to stop the spread of coronavirus, Palaniswamy on 24 April came out with the novel idea of a double lockdown, a lockdown within the lockdown, for the five major cities in Tamil Nadu, Chennai. Coimbatore, Madurai, Salem and Tiruppur, till 3 May.
When senior officials pointed out that 30 April was salary day and the following three days were government holidays, the Chief Minister suggested the double lockdown be enforced for four days from 26 April to 29 April when every thing would be brought to a standstill. Shops selling essential items for a limited period every morning, medical stores, private hospitals and stalls selling drinking water were all ordered to be closed completely and no one should be seen outside their residences during the four days.
What the Chief Minister hoped to achieve by this drastic measure was not explained by the government. If he thought he could bring down the number of Covid-19 cases by these drastic measures, he was sadly mistaken. It had just the opposite effect. In Chennai, the number of cases more than doubled from 495 on 26 April to 1,082. Lessons learnt by the people during the first 30 days of the lockdown like queuing up before shops selling essential items, keeping physical distance between themselves, and not crowding in public places were thrown to the wind.
Panic-stricken people came out in large numbers to buy whatever they could lay their hands on to carry them through the four-day ordeal. The old and the infirm were left out high and dry as they could not muscle their way into the gathering crowds. Many of them had to face starvation. Those with medical issues other than coronavirus had to grin and bear it.
The police were unable to control the crowds and remained silent spectators. The full effect of the resultant chaos will be known only after two weeks, but in Chennai city coronavirus cases have already started galloping. “Lockdown is not going to get us anywhere, but will only prolong the agony of the people,” said Dr Jayaprakash Muliyil, chairman of the scientific advisory committee of the National Institute of Epidemiology.
According to him, the right way to reduce transmission is to encourage and educate the people to protect themselves from each other and wearing masks while venturing out.