Amid new virus strain scare, TN CM appeals public to compulsorily wear face masks

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(corrects quote in third para) Chennai, Dec 28 (PTI) Amid fears following the detection of a new, more virulent variant of COVID-19 in the UK, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday insisted on the use of face masks, saying it has turned out to be an effective preventive mechanism against the contagion.

Chief Minister K Palaniswami said the blood samples of 13 UK returnees who had tested positive for coronavirus upon their return to the state have been sent for analysis to a Pune lab and that treatment can be initiated accordingly only if they test positive for the new strain.

'Medical experts say the mutated coronavirus infection also spreads by not wearing a mask,' he said at a review meeting with district collectors and officials on the pandemic situation.

The only way to prevent the spread of the virus now is for the people to compulsorily wear face masks, he said.

Expressing concern that some still took the pandemic lightly and refrained from wearing face masks, as the incidence of the disease is declining, the chief minister urged the public to strictly adhere to the government guidelines on precautions.

Due to the precautionary measures taken by the government, the coronavirus infection has been 'very, very low in several districts, with the exception of a few,' he said.

'I have toured all over Tamil Nadu and held consultative meetings with the district heads and advised them to take more focused measures. Due to gradual relaxation of lockdown regulations, many places can be seen returning to normalcy,' he said.

He urged officials to remain extra vigilant during the New Year and Pongal festivities.

So far, his government has spent Rs 7,544 crore on containing the infection, treatment and relief measures.Apart from providing potable drinking water, the affected areas are regularly disinfected and maintained clean.

'Mobile units are being engaged to collect blood samples, give proper treatment and prevent the spread of the disease,' Palaniswami added.

The infection rate currently stood at 5.84 percent while the fatality rate was at 1.48 percent, he said.

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