PM's virtual meet on COVID-19: TN CM urges Centre to share 50 per cent RT-PCR test cost

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(Photo by Javed Dar/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Javed Dar via Getty Images)
(Photo by Javed Dar/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Javed Dar via Getty Images)

Chennai, Aug 11 (PTI) The Centre should fund 50 per cent of the cost of RT-PCR tests done for detecting COVID-19 and also finance the procurement of high-end ventilators, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister K Palaniswami on Tuesday.

Raising the demand with Prime Minister Narendra Modi during a virtual meet he (Modi) held with chief ministers of ten states on COVID-19, Palaniswami also said a proactive strategy has led to a slide in new positive cases in Chennai and the model was being replicated in other parts of the state.

Pointing to aggressive, targeted testing, a key component of the strategy, he said Tamil Nadu was conducting the maximum number of RT-PCR (Reverse transcriptase-Polymerase chain reaction) tests, the gold standard for COVID-19 screening, in the country.

'Tamil Nadu presently has 130 labs for COVID testing with 61 government and 69 private labs, with an average testing capacity of 65,000 tests per day. These tests cost nearly five crore rupees a day. I request the government of India to fund 50 per cent of the cost of the PCR tests from the PM CARES fund,' he said.

The chief minister said over 32.92 lakh samples have been tested so far in the state.

The recovery rate was 80.8 per cent, one of the highest in the country and death rate of 1.6 per cent among the lowest, he said.

'Experts treating critically ill COVID patients have requested for a higher degree of ventilatory care,' he said and urged the Centre to 'provide funds to Tamil Nadu for procuring high-end ventilators.' Outlining the strategy in the state capital, he referred to door-to-door surveys, fever camps, mobile and 'fixed' sample collection centres and the screening of about 17 lakh people.

Palaniswami said 'So far eight lakh RT-PCR tests have been done. With the help of 10,000 field workers, 93 NGOs and 2,700 volunteers, symptomatic cases are being identified and vulnerable people are being provided necessary support.' Welcoming the Centre's announcement on free supply of rice and whole chana dhal to priority households, he, however, said the latter was not part of the staple diet of the people in the state.

'Based on my earlier letter to you in this regard, I request you to release 55,637 MT (Metric Tonnes) of toor dhal to the state for distribution till November.' Tamil Nadu received Rs 512.64 crore from Centre in two tranches under the Emergency Response and Health Systems Preparedness package out of an envelope of Rs 712.64 crore allotted to the state.

The Chief Minister wanted this package to be stepped up to Rs 3,000 crore.

'Both Central and State tax revenue will fall short of the budget estimates. To make up for the shortfall, Tamil Nadu may be allocated Rs 9,000 crore special grant to combat COVID-19 and its after effects on the states economy,' he said.

Palaniswami also informed Modi that the state has fully exhausted the State Disaster Response and Mitigation Fund, and urged an ad-hoc grant of Rs 1,000 crore from the National Disaster Response Force fund.

The GST compensation for April-June, 2020, and a request to instruct SIDBI to provide 'at least Rs 1,000 crore as refinance facility,' to Tamil Nadu Industrial Investment Corporation Limited from the RBI special packages to help revive the MSME industries was among the other priorities the Chief Minister flagged during the meeting.

Modi held consultationswith chief ministers of states, including Tamil Nadu, on the coronavirus situation, the seventh such exercise since the outbreak of the pandemic and the first during the 'unlock 3' phase. PTI VGN VS VS