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An Overview Of The Catastrophic Second Wave In Tamil Nadu

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This post is a part of YKA’s dedicated coverage of the novel coronavirus outbreak and aims to present factual, reliable information. Read more.

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.

Rural Realities Tamil Nadu

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, Tiruchirapalliand 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.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

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Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

Emerging Issues

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.

Screenshot 2021 06 28 at 10.54.40 AM
Source: IMPRI #WebPolicyTalk

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.

Way Forward

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.

YouTube Video for Practitioners’ Experiences in Tackling the Second Wave in Tamil Nadu

Ritika Gupta, Sakshi Sharda, Ishika Chaudhary, Gby Atee, Mahima Kapoor, Swati Solanki, Chhavi Kapoor, Arjun Kumar and IMPRI Team

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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