Chennai luxury hotel turns COVID hotspot; 85 test positive

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Chennai, Jan 2 (PTI) About 85 people, including staff members of ITC Grand Chola in Guindy here,have tested positive for COVID-19 since December 15 last year, a senior official said here on Saturday.

Of the total of 609 samples collected till date, 85 were found to be positive.

Following this, the Greater Chennai Corporation has been instructed to carry out saturation testing of all the guests at the hotel, Health Secretary J Radhakrishnan said.

ITC Grand Chola, in a release, said all events at the property have been conducted in adherence to the norms mandated by the authorities.

Additionally, only 50 per cent capacity of the hall is used to ensure maximum distancing and safety, it said.

The first case was reported after a chef got infected on December 15.

As many as 16 and 13 cases were reported on December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021.

'Of the total of 609 samples collected till now from the hotel and in and around the residences of the staff, 85 have so far been found to be positive.

They all displayed mild symptoms and were sent home after treatment,' Radhakrishnan said.

ITC Grand Chola said all associates were regularly tested and monitored, 'which is an ongoing process and part of our hygiene protocol.' 'Extreme care and diligence continues to be followed at all touch points and all necessary information has been shared with the authorities,' it said.

Radhakrishnan said hotels are periodically screened and have been sensitised. They were also told to strictly adhere to the government guidelines on precautions.

'The Chennai Corporation was asked to conduct saturation test for all the residents of the hotel,' he told reporters when his attention was drawn to the new emerging cluster at the hotel, close on the heels of 200 students of IIT Madras testing positive for COVID-19 in December last.

ITC Grand Chola claimed that 'while the GCC has classified some associates as asymptomatic and mild, the majority of our associates are working from home and have been absent from the property and so have no contact with other associates and guests.' The civic staff under Joint Commissioner of Health, GCC, S Dhivyadarshini, conducted fever camps and all employees and guests were advised to undergo testing.

The corporation, which commenced screening of staff and guests at luxury hotels on Saturday, hopes to complete COVID- 19 tests at over 25 luxury hotels in two days.

At present, the number of persons permitted for a banquet depends on the seating capacity of the hall, but the number should not exceed 50 per cent of the seating capacity, a senior corporation official said.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, event organisers have been asked to permit only 500 people in a 9,000 sq ft hall, instead of 1,000.

ITC Grand Chola said the health and safety of guests and associates is of paramount importance.

'The property has been practicing the necessary SoPs laid down by the authorities, along with its own accredited stringent sanitation and hygiene protocol,' it said. PTI JSP APR ADMINISTRATOR ADMINISTRATOR