Officials said, the most affected areas in Chengalpattu district are Tambaram, Pallavaram, Chromepet and St Thomas Mount, all densely populated suburbs. In January 2021, only 50 fresh cases were reported and in February, the number went below 40. From March end, however, the tally multiplied by five times to around 200. “From April there was a significant surge- on April 14 there were 771 cases and on April 30 it went up to 1,164. On May 6, 1,755 cases were reported and in just three days, on May 9, 2,279 cases were seen. So far, the count has not fallen below 2000,” an official said. The district also saw over 1,000 deaths.
Officials claimed that since Chengalpattu is located very close to Chennai, many employees travelled to the city daily, resulting in the surge. On the other hand, the public blamed the district administration and claimed that local body officials were half as active as during the first wave, which was why the virus spread so fast. “Municipal officials are not working like last year to control the people. There was a huge crowd in the Tambaram railway ground till the lockdown was announced and most were moving about without following norms. The police and municipality failed to take action,” said V Santhanam, a social activist from Chromepet. He added that even garbage pickers were seen collecting waste without masks on. “When asked to wear a mask, they don’t like it,” Santhanam said. Another social activist, John from Tambaram, said municipal and health workers are not active as they were in the first wave. “Health workers collecting samples are not visiting all villages and even police are not restricting the people roaming about during the lockdown,” he said.
The district administration, meanwhile, claimed they are clamping down on lockdown violators and increasing number of beds and COVID care camps. “We have set up camps with 3,000 beds in the district. They will start functioning soon. We also have enough beds in Chengalpattu, Tambaram and Sanatorium government hospitals and a few other private hospitals. We are also working on setting up camps in OMR and private colleges soon,” said a district health official. District health officer Priya Raj said they are testing more than 8,000 samples daily and this is the reason behind Chengalpattu reporting so many cases. “Even in the last wave, only after the cases in Chennai dipped, did we see a decline,” she added.