India

‘Samples from clusters sent for genomic analysis’


Expediting vaccination, laxity and fatigue among the public are challenges, says the Director of Public Health

Since March 5, fresh novel coronavirus infections have been steadily rising in Tamil Nadu. Fatigue among the public resulting in poor compliance with masking, physical distancing and hand hygiene, family gatherings, and mass gatherings during election campaigns are key challenges in the control of the surge. In an interview, T. S. Selvavinayagam, Director of Public Health and Preventive Medicine, talks about the challenges for the department, its preparedness and ramping up testing and vaccination.

With fresh cases steadily rising across the State, what are the main causes of concern?

The challenges are speeding up vaccination for all age-appropriate categories, laxity in the community and fatigue among the public as we are one year into the pandemic.

However, the advantages are that we already have clear-cut protocols in place for testing, treating, triaging, admission and home quarantine. We have the required human resources in place. We have extended the period of the human resource personnel such as those who were outsourced till May.

Compared with last year, are you seeing a difference in the speed of transmission in certain pockets?

We now have clusters in schools, hotels and functions. We are monitoring every cluster and tracing all contacts. We are also sending samples lifted from the clusters for genomic analysis to know the variations and behavioural change of the strain, if any. These samples are being randomly selected from the clusters.

With election campaigns being held across the State and polling all set to happen, what are the aspects that you would like to see better enforced to prevent transmission?

We are fixing the responsibility on the organisers of election campaigns to ensure that the participants follow all COVID-19 protocols. We have given the instructions to election officers authorised to tell the organisers that they are responsible. This is one of the conditionalities for granting approval for meetings. We have advised our health inspectors to go as a team to the places of mass gathering for enforcement of COVID-19 norms.

The number of samples tested a day has been increasing in the last two weeks. Are you planning to take up aggressive testing in public places?

We are ramping up testing. Previously, we primarily traced and tested five to 10 contacts of a patient. These were mainly family contacts. Now, we are expanding up to 30 contacts, including friends and other social contacts. We are planning random testing to check if there are cases in the community in certain areas.

Vaccination coverage has crossed 23 lakh. What is the current stock position of both vaccines and is the State expecting more supply?

We received 39 lakh doses. With over 23 lakh persons already vaccinated, we have a sufficient stock for the next 10 days.

This is based on a three-day moving average. We have placed the next indent with the Centre, and are expecting 10 lakh doses.



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