COVID-19: The state of Tamil Nadu is the latest cause of worry

Summary

With India crossing 100,000-mark of confirmed COVID-19 cases as of May 18, Tamil Nadu became the second-most affected state after Maharashtra. The number of new cases were increasing at a much more modest rate in the state during the early days of the lockdown period. However, the state started to witness a huge spike in COVID-19 cases and added over 500 new cases every day since early May. The recent rise in numbers is attributed to the state’s capital Chennai’s Koyembedu market, which has emerged as the latest COVId-19 hotspot. As of May 9, out of the total 6,535 cases in Tamil Nadu, 1,867 cases were linked to the Koyambedu market cluster.

Mayhem in May: Steep rise in Tamil Nadu's COVID-19 cases

The spread of the virus has been varied across the country. The top five states- Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi, and Rajasthan-alone contribute more than 70% to the total COVID-19 confirmed cases in India. Tamil Nadu, after surpassing Gujarat, became the state with the second-highest caseload in the country as of May 18.

The Covid-19 situation seemed well within the control in Tamil Nadu, until the state’s figure began to show an alarming rise since early May. Initially, the confirmed cases were rising steadily, and the state had 2323 cases till April 30. Now, the state is reporting more than 11,000 cases adding over 500 cases every day since the beginning of May.

Note: MoHFW- Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

The doubling time of cases, which illustrates the speed of COVID-19 spread, also shows a similar trend. The curve improved throughout April, showing the efficacy of lockdown measures in containing the virus spread. The doubling rate went from 2 as of April 1 to 20 as of April 26. However, after this, the initial gains reversed in the month of May and the state went back to a growth rate where cases were doubling every 6 days as of May 12. Although it has been improving since then, it is still low compared to the peak reached on April 26.

Chennai is Tamil Nadu’s red spot of bother

The state’s capital Chennai has seen a significant increase in the number of cases since the beginning of May. With 7,117 cases as of May 18, Chennai alone makes up close to 60% of total COVID-19 confirmed cases in Tamil Nadu.

Koyambedu, the city’s biggest wholesale grocery market, has turned out to be the epicentre of Chennai’s COVID-19 cases and is the primary reason behind the state’s recent rise in cases. The Tamil Nadu government enforced a stringent lockdown from April 26-April 29 in Chennai and the other four districts. The announcement for the same was made on April 24, which resulted in panic buying the following day. The massive crowding at marketplaces led to a rise in the growth rate of infection. As of May 9, out of the total 6,535 cases in Tamil Nadu, 1,867 cases were linked to the Koyambedu market. (Source)

Source: Health and Family Welfare Department Government of Tamil Nadu

While the cases continue to mount, the Tamil Nadu has fared well in terms of its recovery rate at 37% and keeping its mortality rate low (0.7%) compared to other Indian states. However, as Tamil Nadu is next in line to become the epicentre of India’s COVID-19 cases, the state's challenge will now be to keep the growth rate of infections in check for the next few weeks.