First COVID-19 death reported in Tamil Nadu

Arun Janardhanan

Police personnel set up blockades near Chennai airport in view of the 21-day lockdown on Wednesday. (PTI)

The state reported its first COVID-19 death on Wednesday after a 54-year-old building contractor in Madurai succumbed to the infection. The same day, the total number of coronavirus cases reached 23 after five more people tested positive.

State health minister, C Vijaya Baskar, said the five positive cases include four Indonesian nationals and their Chennai-based guide. All of them had been in quarantine since March 22. They are now being treated at the Government Medical College in Salem.

The Indonesian nationals had reached Salem via Delhi and Chennai visiting several mosques. Health department workers are currently tracing people who came in close contact with the foreign nationals during their journey. The state health secretary, Beela Rajesh, told The Indian Express that all four Indonesian nationals, two Thailand nationals, and the building contractor from Madurai, who passed away on Wednesday, had attended a religious outreach programme at Erode (about 100 km from Coimbatore). “All of them were part of the meeting held in Erode,” Rajesh said.

A senior health official said that at least a dozen people who had come in close contact with two Thai nationals have been admitted to a government isolation ward in the state as they were in the high-risk category, while nearly 150 people who visited the two mosques in the area have been instructed to stay in home quarantine.

Last week, a 49-year-old Thai national, who had accompanied the group and travelled to Erode, died in Coimbatore Medical College. The team reached Delhi on March 6 and left for Erode on March 10 onboard the Millennium Express after visiting several places in the capital. However, the cause of death of the Thai national was officially recorded as complications from diabetic nephropathy, sepsis and pulmonary oedema.

Following the rise in cases, the state administration officials on Tuesday began tracing about 80,000 people, who have landed in India since March 1.

Until Tuesday night, the total number of people in home quarantine across the state was 15,492 against neighbouring Kerala’s 71,994. While the former has so far tested 890 samples (757 were negative), the latter tested 4,516 samples (3,331 were negative).

Health secretary Rajesh said a team of officials are assessing data from the Centre. “About 80,000 Indian passport holders from Tamil Nadu are to be traced... This includes those who have already been quarantined and those who live outside Tamil Nadu ... We will complete the segregation and verification and revenue officials will be tracing them...” she said.

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