Chennai’s corona eruption supports New Delhi’s narrative. But for how much longer?

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Tamil Nadu’s capital city lent itself nicely to the Union government’s new narrative that the way India has tackled the coronavirus pandemic is a success because the pandemic has been kept to the cities. Accordingly, Chennai yet again reported steepling numbers on Friday.

Tamil Nadu’s count on Saturday morning stood at 14,753, with the 786 more infected persons added since Friday morning. The state’s death toll is 98 with four fatalities occurring on the day.

For the better part of two weeks, Tamil Nadu has known that the coronavirus is a city virus. Greater Chennai reporting 569 of the new positives on Friday, topping its Thursday by two.

Greater Chennai’s numbers are growing despite the fact that the number of containment zones in the city came down to 655 from 774 on Thursday after no fresh cases in those areas removed from the list. At the Chennai Central railway station, 15 railway policemen tested positive for Covid-19 today.

This urban profile, the central government’s coronavirus mavens said, is proof that India’s campaign against the pandemic has worked.

As V K Paul, chairman of Empowered Group One and Niti Aayog member, said in a New Delhi briefing on Friday, around 80 per cent of the active cases reported till Thursday were in just five states — Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Delhi and Madhya Pradesh — and over 90 per cent are in ten.

Also, over 60 per cent of the cases are in just five cities — Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Ahmedabad and Thane.

Fatalities too have an urban profile. “You can say this is a disease of the urban districts and nearly 60 per cent of the deaths were reported in five cities — Mumbai, Ahmadabad, Pune, Delhi and Kolkata — and 70 per cent of the deaths are in ten cities,” Paul said.

But guest workers might have news for New Delhi’s corona experts. In Tamil Nadu on Friday, returnees from other states boosted the state’s daily coronavirus tally by 92 on Friday, up from 87 on Thursday. These positives are coming to light at check-posts set up to test India’s moving workers. On Friday, the travelling positives included 66 from Maharashtra, 13 from New Delhi, six from West Bengal, two from Andhra Pradesh, one each from Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha and Telangana.

Among them was one passenger returning from the Philippines. He had tested negative on arrival, but turned positive in the ‘exit test’ on Friday.

As these moving workers reach home, the urban profile of the pandemic in India, is likely to change. In Tamil Nadu already, apart from Chennai, the northern districts of Chengalpattu and Thiruvallur continue to throw up more positive cases.

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