Chennai Buzz: Containment strategy tightened| Lake rejuvenation stalled | Metrowater stops sewage study…and more

The city is slowly resuming activities but COVID-19 cases continue to rise. Key headlines from the front during the week that was.

Tamil Nadu recorded 1,116 fresh COVID cases on Friday, June 5th, of which 1,438 patients were reported from Chennai, according to the Health department bulletin. The total number of cases in Chennai alone stood at 19,826 till that date. In view of the same, the state government has deputed five ministers to monitor the relief work carried out by the Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC). Here is the list:

D Jayakumar – Madhavaram, Tondiarpet, Royapuram
KP Anbalagan – Adyar, Perungudi, Sholinganallur 
R Kamaraj – Anna Nagar, Teynampet, Kodambakkam
RB Udhayakumar – Thiruvottiyur, Manali, Madhavaram
MR Vijayabhaskar – Ambattur, Valasaravakkam, Alandur

Among the cases, eight policemen, 23 Secretariat staff and three Madras High Court judges have tested positive. Tamil Nadu Secretariat Association has requested Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami to ensure only 33% employees work from office. According to the association, the employees could not maintain physical distancing ever since 50% of the staff began attending office from June 1st. The association president S Peter Anthonysami stated that thermal scanning should be made mandatory at all entry points in the secretariat and whole-body check-ups should be done for all secretariat employees.

Going by the current trend, experts from Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University have predicted that the city may record 1.5 lakh COVID-19 cases and up to 1,600 deaths by the second week of July at the current rate of growth. The university began its mathematical projections from April 18th, and submitted the findings to the government in the first week of May. Dr R Ramakrishnan, a senior scientist and former director of the National Institute of Epidemiology said that the prediction may be proven wrong if better clarity on clinical symptoms and treatment for the disease emerge in the meantime. 

Infographic of total COVID-19 positive cases in Chennai as on June 6. Pic: GCC/Twitter

With Chennai continuing to be the hotspot, the GCC has intensified its containment strategy. The civic body has decided to focus on vulnerable and co-morbid populations, to detect early and provide treatment. Similarly, in Royapuram zone, which has registered most cases, GCC has strengthened its decongestion plan. Residents would be shifted to wedding halls or corporation community halls, even if they are healthy. The officials plan to disinfect the entire area while they are away. According to GCC, narrow streets and population density and more number of slums are the reasons behind soaring cases.

Zone-wise COVID-19 cases in Chennai as on June 6. Pic: GCC/Twitter

Twenty-five two-wheelers have been deployed to disinfect narrow streets in Chennai. According to the officials, each two-wheeler sprays 1,620 litres of disinfectant in an hour. Once the COVID-19 tasks get over, the vehicles will be used to extinguish fire.

Even as Chennai continues to battle with COVID-19, the death of an asymptomatic discharged patient poses the question if the infection is leading to oxygen deprivation. The patient reportedly died while having dinner and did not undergo an exit test while discharging. Doctors in COVID duty admit that ‘in rare cases, people have experienced hypoxia without realising it.’ 

As salon services are resumed in Chennai, Aadhaar number has been made mandatory to keep a register of the customers visited to track the infection. According to the norms laid out by the state government, only 50% of the seats are to be used, there should be a minimum number of people waiting in queue, ‘service by appointments’ are encouraged, blades should be used once and disposable towels are encouraged; if reused, it should be washed well and all equipment is to be sanitised before and after every use.

The fisheries department is setting up a temporary retail fish market inside the Kasimedu fishing harbour with marking to ensure social distancing among vendors and buyers. The department has also issued a notification to issue passes for traders and fishermen visiting the fishing harbour to limit the number of persons visiting the place.

According to the directive, people wishing to enter the harbour will be allowed entry upon showing the identity card to be issued by the administrative office of the Chennai Fishing Harbour. The officials are also constructing a permanent structure for housing more than 150 retail vendors, who had to be relocated for the Ennore Manali Port Road Improvement Project.

Source: The Hindu | The Times of India | The New Indian Express | The Indian Express

Rejuvenation of lakes stalled

Ever since the lockdown began, it has hampered the rejuvenation of four lakes and the Buckingham Canal in Chennai. When the National Green Tribunal (NGT) heard this case, two committee members, constituted to record the status quo of the lakes and file the action plan, sought more time. 

While the first committee was constituted to assess Medavakkam, Narayananapuram and Kilkattalai lakes, the second committee is for Velachery lake. It may be noted that the Pallavaram municipal commissioner was appointed as the nodal officer for the first committee along with representatives from Chengalpet District Collectorate, Panchayat and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) as its members. The committee stated that the assessment could not be carried out due to the lockdown and the bench granted two months’ time for filing the report. Similarly, the second committee sought extension to submit the document on the action to be taken against violators for illegally discharging sewage into the water body. 

Although the Ambattur Lake has been revived and transformed into an eco-park, the operation stands postponed owing to the lockdown. According to officials from the Water Resources Department (WRD), sewage discharge into the lake has been reduced by 80%. They add that the sewage issue would be completely addressed once the Avadi municipal corporation operated the sewage treatment plant. The department has requested Rs 21 crore to increase the lake’s storage capacity by 25%. 

Source: The Times of India | The Hindu

Air quality levels improved during lockdown: Study

Studies show that the lockdown has helped in bringing down the air pollution in the city. According to research by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Board (TNPCB), the city’s air quality level improved during Lockdown 2.0 and 3.0. 92.9% days saw ‘good’ air quality during the period.

Another study by Greenpeace India, that analysed the Central Pollution Control Board data, showed significant improvement in PM 2.5 levels. According to the research, in April this year, PM 2.5 came down by 55.56% and the concentration of NO2 (nitrogen dioxide) was reduced by 23.86% in comparison to last year.

A press release issued by the department on Air Quality Index (AQI) for the month of April for the last three years showed that the average values were 56.6, 60.7 and 33.0.

Source: The Hindu | The New Indian Express

ICMR directs Metrowater to stop study on sewage 

After receiving directions from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), Chennai Metropolitan Water Supply and Sewerage Board (CMWSSB) has stopped its study to trace fragments of coronavirus in sewage as it is formulating the guidelines. It has now written to the central body seeking permission for resuming the research. Samples of sewage from two areas with COVID cases were collected in April and were found to contain traces of coronavirus.

The ICMR is working on formulation of standard testing guidelines for this work and is expected to accord permission for resumption of the study in around 10 days. The Metrowater board will collaborate with officials from the World Health Organisation, State Public Health department and Anna University to prepare the environmental site and establish a protocol and sample collection methods.

 Source: The Times of India

Compiled by Bhavani Prabhakar

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