Ritika Gupta, Swati Solanki, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Arjun Kumar
The second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic has deeply affected Indian states and Union Territories and Tamil Nadu has been no exception. Due to issues like lack of infrastructure and human resources, both rural and urban people were caged in the web of grief and misery wherein even to see one’s loved one last time who succumbed to Coronavirus became an act of privilege.
Focusing on the Rural Realities around the country during the pandemic, the Centre for Habitat, Urban and Regional Studies (CHURS), Department of Social Work, Bharathidasan University, Tiruchirapalli, and Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), New Delhi organized a Panel Discussion with eminent panelists on “Rural Realities | Tamil Nadu Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave” on May 22, 2021.
This article is an excerpt of the presentation given by Gby Atee and the IMPRI team which provided an overview of the COVID-19 situation in India with special reference to Tamil Nadu to set the context for the broader discussion on the topic by the esteemed panelists.
About Tamil Nadu
Tamil Nadu is located on the extreme south of the subcontinent. It is a supremely rich state in culture and heritage. It is one of the oldest civilisation of the world, the people of Tamil Nadu belong to the Dravidian family and take much pride in the 2000 year old culture. The south is bounded by Bay of Bengal in the East, Indian Ocean to the South, States of Kerala, Karnataka to the West and Andhra Pradesh to the North.
The State has the longest coastal line in India. The capital of Tamil Nadu is Chennai, some of the important cities are Coimbatore, Selam, and Tiruchirappalli. According to the 2011 census the state houses a population of 2.17 crore.
The state is divided into 38 districts namely: Ariyalur, Chengalpattu, Chennai, Coimbatore, Cuddalore, Dharmapuri, Dindigul, Erode, Kallakurichi, Kanchipuram, Kanyakumari, Karur, Krishnagiri, Madurai, Nagapattinam, Namakkal, Nilgiris, Perambalur, Pudukkottai, Ramanathapuram, Ranipet, Salem, Sivaganga, Tenkasi, Thanjavur, Theni, Thoothukudi (Tuticorin), Tiruchirappalli, Tirunelveli, Tirupathur, Tiruppur, Tiruvallur, Tiruvannam Alai, Tiruv Arur, Vellore, Viluppuram, Virudhunagar.
The state of Tamil Nadu houses 52 percent of its population in rural areas, which is still well below the national average of 69 percent. Both in terms of sex ratio and literacy rate the state performs much better than the national average. The state ranks third in the Sustainable Development Goals and at the same time ranks eighth in Per Capita Income. 22 percent of the population as per 2011 census lives below the poverty line.
COVID-19 Second Wave
During the peak of the first wave, the seven-day rolling of the average new infection stood at about 7000 which was well below that of the neighboring states. However, in terms of caseload Tamil Nadu ranked third, with total positive cases of approximately 4 Lakh people.
By Mid March of 2021, the active cases were approximately 6000. After March the cases began to rise and post-election the trend shot upward. In the early days of the peak, the daily limit of the cases reached the upper limit set by the first wave. As of 14 May, there were approximately 14 lakh positive cases in the state of Tamil Nadu.
TN government slashed the Covid test charge at the private laboratories in the state from Rs 1,200 to Rs 900. TN hit an all-time high of Covid-19 cases and deaths on Thursday, reporting 35,579 infections and 397 fatalities. Chennai has witnessed the most cases, followed by Coimbatore, Chengalpattu, etc. A complete lockdown was imposed in the State beginning from May 10, 2021, soon after the new government came to power in the state.
TN Chief Minister MK Stalin on Thursday launched the Covid-19 vaccination drive for persons in the age group of 18-44 years at an event in Tiruppur. CM also inaugurated a Covid care centre with 500 oxygen beds at Salem Steel Plant today. Stalin is presently touring Salem, Tirupur, Coimbatore, Madurai and Tiruchy to review Covid related works of the government for two days from today.
Counting the Dead
The first wave of COVID-19 caused 7313 deaths in the state. The second wave became more deadly than the first. The case fatality rate during the second wave was 1.12 percent.
TN is emerging as the State with the highest number of Covid cases across India with 34,875 fresh infections and 303 deaths being reported on Wednesday taking the active cases to 2.07 lakh. To date 70,82,380 have been vaccinated across the State, of which 51,52,220 received the first dose and 19,30,160 received the second dose.
COVID-19 came as a great shock both in terms of scale and impact, the economy of the state came to a grinding halt. In the district of Chennai, more than 76 percent of the above 60 years population had received their vaccine. In the majority of the districts, the percentage ranges between 10-20. The rural districts are much worse off in initiating inoculation. The state reports a whopping 3.7 percent of vaccine wastage.
With the State government sounding an alert on surging mucormycosis or black fungus cases, the authorities have ordered 5,000 vials of Amphotericin from a private pharmaceutical company in Hosur. The State received its twelfth oxygen express carrying 64.95 MT on Thursday; with this the State has received a total of 649.4 MT of liquid medical oxygen (LMO) through 12 oxygen express trains.
Pointing out that the Central government affidavit states nothing on drugs, vaccination, and oxygen supply to Tamil Nadu now or in the near future, the Madras High Court on Thursday sought the Union government to come up with a ‘centralized plan of action’ to deal with the emergency caused by the raging second wave in the State.
In order to minimize the impact of second-wave and prepare for a third wave, issues of lack of oxygen, health infrastructure, and vaccination, which has also added to the financial burden on most rural as well as urban households, need to be addressed in moving towards healthy and prosperous Tamil Nadu.