At least four government department offices at the Secretariat have been hit hard by coronavirus infection, with drivers and office assistants reportedly turning into superspreaders.
“Major departments like Finance, Public Health and Industries require more space for social distancing. Departments like Tamil Development, Labour, Social Welfare and Transport can work remotely, as there are not much activities in these departments. In the absence of public transport, there is a constant pressure on drivers to pick up and drop more government staff. This is a major reason for COVID spread among drivers,” said a government driver.
According to Secretariat sources, Public Health Department is the worst-affected, while the least affected are Public Works Department, Labour, Tamil Development, and Environment and Forests, sources said.
The government had capped Secretariat manpower at 35 per cent and also gave relaxation for pregnant women and those above 55 years.
But the virus has spread so much that the Secretariat needs to be further decongested, S Peter Anthonysamy of Tamil Nadu Secretariat Association told DT Next.
More than 300 staff have been tested positive so far. The government should create a separate hospital facility for Secretariat staff, as the infection rate among government staff was alarming, Anthonysamy added. Getting admitted to a government hospital in the city is difficult, he said, adding that there was panic among the government staff.
The Chief Minister and Chief Secretary should help the Secretariat staff who are working during the lockdown period, and should offer master health check-up. It should also add more beds at government hospitals, Anthonysamy said, noting that Government Stanley Medical College Hospital, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital and Government Kilpauk Medical College Hospital were full.
According to government sources, from more than 6,500 government staff who used to visit the Secretariat every day, it has gone down to one-fourth. However, maintaining social distance was difficult due to space constraint, officials said.