The second wave: All about the latest COVID testing, containment and vaccination protocol in Chennai

The numbers are surging. What is the containment strategy? When can you get tested? If you've recovered once, should you take the vaccine? Catch these, and other information that citizens should have.

Chennai breached the 2000-case mark on April 11th, with the city registering 2124 cases. The second wave of COVID-19 is spreading fast across the city. All residents have been advised to be vigilant and follow masking, social distancing and avoid unnecessary gatherings. A fresh set of restrictions have been imposed on use of public spaces in a move to curb further spread of infection.

Here is the latest testing protocol, containment strategy, vaccination specifics and restrictions in the city that we must all be aware of:

On testing and hospitalisation:

Where can one get tested for COVID-19?

COVID-19 testing can be done at government and private hospitals or at ICMR approved private labs. Testing can be done on the basis or referrals by doctors or on request. Prescriptions are no longer mandatory for getting a COVID-19 RT-PCR test. 

Getting the test done at the right time is an important step to contain COVID-19. Pic: Laasya Shekhar

Who will undergo mandatory test for COVID-19?

  1. All symptomatic individuals (influenza like illness, or ILI symptoms) with history of international travel in the last 14 days
  2. All symptomatic (ILI symptoms) contacts of laboratory confirmed cases
  3. All symptomatic (ILI symptoms) healthcare workers/frontline workers involved in containment and mitigation of COVID-19
  4. All patients of Severe Acute Respiratory Infection (SARI)
  5. Asymptomatic direct and high-risk contacts of a confirmed case to be tested once between day 5 and day 10 of coming into contact
  6. All symptomatic ILI within hotspots/containment zones
  7. All hospitalised patients who subsequently develop ILI symptoms
  8. All returnees and migrants who develop ILI symptoms within 7 days of arrival to the city

Read more: Current COVID protocol to follow if you are travelling to Chennai

Should all those who test positive for COVID-19 be hospitalised immediately?

No. Those who test positive for COVID-10 may be advised home isolation or hospitalisation depending on their age, comorbidities and severity of illness. Those with mild to moderate symptoms, those without history of comorbidities, and those who are below 60 years of age may be advised home isolation.

For those who are unable to safely isolate at home, the facilities at the COVID care centers set up by the government can be used. 

In case of severe symptoms such as low oxygen saturation levels, or presence of any other comorbidities, individuals may be advised hospitalisation to help with recovery. 

The decision on hospitalisation is made by physicians on a case by case basis. 

Where can one get treated for COVID-19 in Chennai?

All major government hospitals and most private hospitals have set up dedicated COVID-19 wards for treatment. Treatment at government hospitals is free of cost.

The list of private hospitals treating patients for COVID-19 and the latest on bed availability can be found here

For any queries regarding government hospitals, details of the helplines can be accessed here.

What is the discharge policy for COVID-19 patients?

a. For mild/very mild/pre-symptomatic cases at COVID Care Centre 

i. Patients can be discharged after 10 days of testing positive, provided they have been found without a fever for 3 consecutive days at the COVID care centre. 

ii. No need for a negative RT-PCR test prior to discharge 

iii. Patients will be advised to follow home isolation for a further period of 7 days after discharge 

b. For moderate cases 

i. Patient can be discharged 10 days after a positive test, and if they have been asymptomatic for 3 consecutive days

ii. No need for a negative RT-PCR test prior to discharge 

iii. Patients will be advised to follow home isolation for a further period of 7 days after discharge.

c. For severe cases 

i. Patient will be discharged upon clinical recovery 

ii. They must have a negative RT-PCR test after resolution of symptoms 

On containment zones in Chennai

With the increase in number of cases, the city has come up with a containment strategy again, with the establishment of containment zones in areas where many individuals have tested positive for COVID-19.

How are containment zones demarcated? 

A containment zone is formed for areas where a cluster of cases emerges. A cluster is defined as an area where more than three index cases are reported, or where three families or more families are affected by COVID-19. (An index case is an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19, but whose source of infection could not be ascertained.)

If there are more than three index cases or more than three households affected,

  • In areas under the corporation and suburban municipalities, a street or a part of the street is demarcated as containment zone depending on the ground situation
  • In the case of a multi-storey building, the entire affected multi-storey building or a part of it is demarcated
  • In highly crowded slums, wherein maintaining social distance is a challenge, families of positive cases shall be put in institutional quarantine.

2. Where there are up to three index cases or only up to three households having positive cases, the affected households and their neighbours will be put in home quarantine.

3. In streets where there are a very high number of cases, restriction on movement will be imposed on all residents with door-to-door surveillance for fever and any other COVID symptoms.

When will the restrictions be removed from a containment zone?

The containment operations shall be deemed to be over in 14 days (from the date of confirmation of the last positive case), if no active cases are further reported in this containment zone during this period.

On other measures to curb spread of COVID-19

A slew of measures were announced by the state government to arrest the spread of infection, mostly targetted at limiting large gatherings and regulating public space and modes of transport.

The following measures came into effect on April 10th:

  • Buses within Chennai are allowed to operate only with seated passengers; no standing passengers. An additional 200 buses will be deployed in the city to ensure adequate service.
  • Temple festivals and religious gatherings are banned. Places of worship to remain open only till 10 pm
  • Shooting of films and serials are permitted to be carried out. The crew involved should take a RT-PCR test and should be vaccinated
  • Rental cabs can transport three persons excluding the driver. Autos can transport two persons excluding the driver
  • All gatherings at beaches are prohibited on weekends and public holidays
  • Weddings restricted to 100 guests and funerals to 50 mourners only
  • Maximum of 50% occupancy cap in theatres, malls, shops, jewellery stores and large retail stores. All shops to shut by 11 pm
  • Tea shops and restaurants to function with 50% capacity till 11 pm
  • Fruits and Vegetable retail vending in Koyambedu Market Complex shall be prohibited 
  • Social, political, educational, entertainment, sporting and cultural events allowed in indoor venues with a maximum capacity of 200 persons
  • Recreation clubs, entertainment parks, large event venues, zoos, parks, museums allowed to function with only 50% capacity
  • Sporting events can be held without spectators, swimming pool allowed to be open and sports training allowed to be held by following COVID protocols. 
  • E-pass system to continue for those coming to Tamil Nadu from other States and countries. E-pass can be obtained here
  • Industries shall be permitted to function but only upon strict compliance with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) already issued by the Government. Industrial establishments shall arrange for the vaccination of their employees based on the guidelines issued by the Government of India from time to time. Action would be initiated against the industries and organisations in case of violation of SOP.

As of now there is no night curfew imposing restrictions on movement by residents but the government is mulling imposing such restrictions if current measures do not adequately curb the spread of infection.

Fines for COVID-19 safety violation

Strict fines will be levied by the authorities for violation of COVID-19 safety norms such as masking and social distancing. Shops and commercial establishments that violate the cap on occupancy or social distancing norms will also be fined.

Not wearing masksRs 200
Violation of quarantine rulesRs 500
Spitting in public spaces/gatherings and violation of physical distancing normsRs 500
Commercial establishments violating SOPs Rs 5,000

Each zone has been set targets by the civic body for fine collection to improve monitoring at the ground level.

On Vaccination

Who is eligible to get the vaccine?

The central government’s strategy on vaccination is being adhered to across the country. According to these guidelines, starting April 1st, all citizens above 45 years of age, with or without co-morbidities are eligible for COVID-19 vaccination. Those who fall under this category can visit and follow these steps for registration. 

Those who meet the eligibility criteria may also walk-in to the various authorised vaccination centres for their shots. Registration can be carried out at the vaccination centres. A list of the authorised vaccination sites in Chennai can be found here.

Read more: All you need to know to get your COVID vaccine in Chennai now

How to get the vaccine certificate?

Those who get vaccinated will receive a QR code-based certificate on their registered mobile number as an acknowledgement. The certificate can be downloaded from the COWIN portal. The date of the second dose will be mentioned in the certificate.

Can vaccine drives be arranged at apartment complexes or doorsteps?

No. The Tamil Nadu Health & Family Welfare department has restricted hospitals from conducting door-to-door vaccine drives as it will impact monitoring. According to the guidelines, the vaccine recipient should be observed for 30 minutes after vaccination for adverse reactions and medicated, if the person develops any adverse complications. 

Are mass vaccination drives by employers allowed?

Workplace vaccination will be launched soon in private and public offices which have at least 100 willing and eligible employees who meet the criteria for vaccination. On-site vaccination and monitoring facilities will be readied by the local administration. 

Should you consult your family physician before vaccinating?

Yes. The medical eligibility should be assessed before getting vaccinated. The person who intends to take the jab should not have acute illnesses like typhoid or should not have undergone any surgery. The person should get vaccinated 14 days after recovery.

Patients with comorbid conditions or on anticoagulants should consult their family doctor before taking the vaccine.

Can you vaccinate if you are self-isolating or waiting to get tested?

You should not attend a vaccine appointment if you are self-isolating, or waiting for a COVID-19 test or unsure if you are well or not. If you are unwell when it is time for your second dose, it is better to wait until you have recovered to have your vaccine, but you should try to have it as soon as possible. 

If you are feeling unwell, get tested for COVID-19 at a nearest facility, prescription is not required. If tested positive, self-isolate immediately and seek medical support.

Can those who have recovered from COVID-19 get vaccinated?

Yes. It is advisable for those who have contracted and recovered from COVID-19 to get vaccinated. The vaccine will boost immune response and lessen chances of reinfection. However, to get vaccinated, those who have recovered from COVID are advised to wait for 90 days as per the guidelines of the Center for Disease Control. 

(Inputs from State Health and Family Welfare Department, , Greater Chennai Corporation and Dr Syed Hafeezullah, Internal Medicine expert from Chennai)

Also read:


  1. Jayaraman V S says:

    An exhaustive write up. The names of the two vaccines that have now been approved for Covid could have been mentioned and the periodicity of the administration of the same should have found mention in the write up. But for the above, the write up is a must read.

  2. jamal says:

    Great info. One of the reason we are failing against the disease is visible in the photo. The healthcare worker most likely a doctor is wearing his mask improperly. He has left his nose open.

  3. Ganesh Kumar says:

    Nice article. Clears all our doubts.

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