All recent COVID-19 cases were tracked to marriages and non-COVID-19 funeral gatherings where crowds did not follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), including wearing of masks. This was compounded by persons approaching private doctors or self-testing and opting for home isolation without maintaining safety norms of having separate rooms and individual toilets, which led to spread within families and neighbouring apartments, said Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan.

In a communication to district officials, he said persons flouting home quarantine, which resulted in family members getting infected and local clusters, may be admitted to institutions such as hospitals or COVID-19 Care Centres (CCC). Prescribing home isolation by private doctors could be avoided for some time, if needed, he said.

The COVID-19 norms apply to political, cultural and other activities. At the time of granting permission, the authorities should insist on an undertaking that norms such as wearing of masks would be followed. Marriages and function halls, including hotels where functions were organised, should be held accountable.

“Unlike March last year, now clinical protocol is standardised and health facilities have been upgraded and oxygen capacity has increased. Chennai still has a backup of 4,000 beds in Athipet. Other districts should have a backup for CCCs for keeping asymptomatic cases,” he said.

In the last three days of inspection of markets, containment zones, marriage halls and railway stations, it was distressing to find nextto-nil mask adherence, the Health Secretary added.

Considering the rise in cases in a few districts, he said that a 24-hour Collectorate control room should be made functional by deputing health officials.

“Flying squads are formed using RBSK vehicles, which are already being used as fever monitoring mobile teams since COVID-19 started last year in each of the 385 blocks,” he said.

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