Civic officials in Chennai carry out a door-to-door drive in the residential areas where patients have tested positive for coronavirus. (Express Photo)
Of the 67 confirmed coronavirus cases in Tamil Nadu, nearly half were infected by two Thai nationals belonging to a religious group. According to an epidemiological study of confirmed cases released by the state government on Monday, 37 per cent of those who tested positive were people who came from abroad while the rest are family members of their contacts — pointing to the link between human mobility and the spread of infectious diseases.
Among those infected, 70 per cent are aged above 40 years and 76 per cent are men.
Thirty-one people, including four Indonesians, are believed to have received the infection from the two Thai nationals. These include a 54-year-old building contractor from Madurai who died last week and his three family members; a 29-year-old female doctor who worked at a railway hospital, her three family members, and house help aged 50 years.
People from Thailand, UK, US, UAE, New Zealand and Spain were among the major carriers. Four Indonesian nationals who had come as part of a religious group and attended two meetings in Delhi and Erode in Tamil Nadu, and their travel guide from Chennai, were among the people who got infected from the two Thai nationals, said Health Secretary Beela Rajesh.
Another major carrier was a man who came from the US and infected four people in his family and immediate circle, including two women aged 15 and 76 years.
Noting that Thailand was among major countries to which thousands of people from Wuhan had travelled for shelter soon after the outbreak of COVID-19 in China in January, UNDP Asia Pacific former senior advisor G Pramod Kumar said, “Local epidemics become global epidemics when people travel. COVID-19 is a typical example of how a highly-localised epidemic became a pandemic within a few weeks because of transnational travel. We can’t prevent movement of people, but can create health intelligence and early warning systems,” he said.
Among the latest positive cases reported in Tamil Nadu, at least 16 were people who travelled from Tamil Nadu to Delhi on trains to attend a meeting of the Tablighi Jamaat — a non-political international faith movement.
According to the state government, at least 1,500 people are believed to have attended a conference organised by the Tablighi Jamaat at Nizamuddin in Delhi. After 16 participants of the meeting tested positive and with details of only 981 participants in official data, the state has issued a public notice urging people to voluntarily report if they were part of the conference. “We appeal to everyone part of the faith group who attended the conference to report to us immediately to ensure their safety and treatment,” said Beela Rajesh.
While reports of community transmission have been repeatedly denied by both the Centre and state governments, five cases with no foreign travel history or potential contact remain shrouded in mystery. These include a 25-year-old youth from UP who travelled on a train from Delhi to Chennai, a 73-year-old woman from Pammal near Chennai, a 60-year-old man from Virudhunagar who recently visited Coimbatore, a 50-year-old woman from Broadway, and a 42-year-old man from Kulithalai in Karur district who travelled from Delhi to Karur on train.
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