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Surge in fresh Covid -19 cases in Rural Tamil Nadu cause of worry for health officials

Chennai, June 1(BPNS)

Even as metro cities of Tamil Nadu like Chennai, Coimbatore and Madurai have shown a reducing trend of daily new Covid -19 cases, the public health department of the state and the Tamil Nadu health ministry is battling against the surge in fresh Covid-19 cases in rural Tamil Nadu.

State health minister Ma Subramaniam while speaking to BPNS said, “This is worrisome but the doctors and health officials are taking maximum effort to bring it down and the a major hindrance in rural areas of the state is the infrastructure and we are on a war footing to counter this with maximum temporary health infrastructure being installed in the rural hinterland of the state.”

Several villages in several areas of Anamalai, Karmadai, Pollachi, Annur and Sullur in Coimbatore district has witnessed a sudden surge in fresh Covid-19 cases and several are turning fatal.

Muthuswamy Ranganathan 42, a farmer in Karmadai while speaking to BPNS said, “ My neighbour, Raghavan passed away on Sunday after testing Covid -19 positive and we are afraid of the disease catching with us. We did not know the gravity of the disease until now when the second wave of the pandemic hit us.”

The lack of awareness in the rural areas coupled with the people not wearing masks and not undergoing tests is the major reason for the spike in cases.

Dr Sugunendran Parthiban who lives in Anamalai while speaking to BPNS said, “There is indeed a lack of awareness but the state health department has woken up and is conducting several awareness programme and door to door testing is now taking place. However, the tribal people who live deep in the forest areas of Anamalai and Sholayar are moving further deep fearing the tests and this has to be taken care of as they come back to the mainland and can be super spreaders.”

Similar situation is witnessed in the rural areas of Erode, Madurai and Salem as well in the villages surrounding Tenkasi ,Kanyakaurmari and Thoothukudi.

As cases surge in rural districts, patients flock to the urban centres for treatment which are more than 100 km away from the  villages. Salem has witnessed a huge rush of patients from areas like Villupuram ,Kallakuruchi ,Dharmapuri and Krishnagiri.

Salem district collector Karmegam while speaking to BPNS said, “Covid -19 positive patients in rural areas are flocking to hospitals in Salem as they don’t have other options and the administration is trying to erect temporary health infrastructure in rural areas on a war footing.”

Another problem facing the government hospitals in rural areas are the lack of beds with oxygen facilities. A classic case is the Mettupalayam government hospital which has only 2 oxygen equipped beds.

In the first Covid- 19 wave Madurai urban centre recorded 80% of the cases but in the second wave the rural areas have recorded 40% of the cases.

However this trend of rural areas showing a spike or surge in cases is not unique to Tamil Nadu but also in almost all the states of the country. The major reason according to the health, experts is the return of a large number of people to their village homes.

Dr Vinaya Joshi, who is working in a rural hospital in the suburbs of Coimbatore while speaking to BPNS said, “The lack of awareness and the lesser number of tests coupled with a rush of urban-based people coming back to homes in villages resulted in the sudden surge in cases. Anyways doctors and allied staff including nurses are on the job 24 hours and unless the government jacks up the health infrastructure employing more doctors, nurses and more oxygen equipped beds in rural hospitals things will get out of control.”