Tamil Nadu may consider introducing the mask mandate in the state if Covid-19 cases surge beyond the 500 or 1,000 mark, Health Minister Ma Subramanian said on Tuesday, 11 April, stressing that it is ideal to wear face masks in crowded places.
Replying to a Special Calling Attention motion notice by members of the Opposition parties, including Leader of the Opposition Edappadi K. Palaniswami of the AIADMK on the increase in Covid cases, the minister said the spread of Covid variants were not life-threatening and there was no need to panic.
“The DMK government is ready to face any crisis,” he said.
The state is witnessing a gradual increase in cases at present, and there have been five “incidental” coronavirus deaths so far, he said.
“The government has not announced any relaxation in the Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and it is advisable to wear face masks in crowded places,” Subramanian said
Though masks are still compulsory as per the Centre’s advisory, people were not taking it seriously, he said.
‘Fear among people’
Raising the issue, Palaniswami wondered if people should wear masks as coronavirus cases are increasing by the day and sought to know what steps are being taken by the state government to prevent the spread.
“There is fear among the people. The minister says that face mask is mandatory only for doctors, medical staff, patients and visitors in hospitals. Should the public wear masks or not?” he asked.
The state saw about 386 positive cases in the last one-and-a-half months, recording about 5-10 cases on an average per day, the minister said.
Since the pandemic spreads from hospitals, the government had made wearing of face masks compulsory in about 11,333 hospitals across Tamil Nadu from 1 April, Subramanian said. Though masking is compulsory, people were not taking it seriously after the third wave from December 2021 to February 2022, he added.
Those with co-morbidities affected
Pointing out that mostly those with co-morbid conditions were being affected, Subramanian said there are no cluster of infections and no patients had been treated in ICUs so far.
He also said only one death was reported in the state in the last 24 hours when a person, who had tested positive, died in Chengapattu.
On the recent deaths of five people across the state, the minister said all of them were patients with co-morbid conditions and were undergoing treatment and had subsequently tested positive for Covid.
The present outbreak could be called the fourth wave if there is a spurt in cases. Following the gradual increase in cases, Chief Minister MK Stalin has directed the Health Department to introduce the mask mandate for the public if the cases breached 500 or 1,000, the Minister said.
Apart from 64,281 beds and oxygen concentrators at the government and private health facilities, the state had enough stock of medicines.
Moreover, the state has the capacity to increase the bed strength to 1.48 lakh in 24 hours if required.
“Hence, there is no need for apprehension regarding coronavirus infection, but we should all exercise caution. People with co-morbidities should be extra cautious and follow the government regulations,” he appealed.