Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami described Covid-19 a “disease of the rich” on Thursday, when another person died due to the novel coronavirus in the state, taking the toll to 15. Tamil Nadu is among the severely affected states in India, with 1,242 cases. Only Maharashtra (2,919) and Delhi (1,578) have recorded more cases.

“This disease is a big challenge,” the chief minister said after chairing a meeting of district collectors to discuss the preventive measures being taken in the state to flatten the transmission curve, PTI reported. “It is a disease of the rich. People who had travelled abroad, or to other states have imported it [to Tamil Nadu]. It did not originate here.”

Palaniswami, however, said that Tamil Nadu had considerably managed to contain the outbreak which was evident from the steady dip in the number of positive cases reported each day.

The number of fresh cases reported in the state on Wednesday stood at 38, a little more than Tuesday’s tally of 31, in sharp contrast to the high numbers reported earlier this week. The state had reported 98 fresh cases on Monday and 106 on Sunday.

Tamil Nadu has screened about 87 lakh people in 558 containment zones, the chief minister said. So far, 11 doctors have been infected, out of which six were working at government hospitals. When compared with states such as Delhi and Mumbai, the numbers are less, he added.

The state government took an early lead by launching screening of air passengers and placing orders for personal protective equipment as early as January, the chief minister claimed. “There were adequate stocks of ventilators, personal protection equipment and masks, while enough strength of health workers [in hospitals] has been ensured,” he added.

Palaniswami announced that a committee headed by Finance Secretary S Krishnan has been formed to devise the state’s “exit strategy” after May 3, when the extended lockdown announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi will end. The committee will also finalise the industries that may be allowed to function after April 20, as permitted by the Centre, he said.

The police of Tamil Nadu have filed 1.94 lakh cases and arrested over two lakh people for violating restrictions of the lockdown, and have sized 1.79 lakh vehicles, he said. A sum of Rs 89 lakh has been collected as fine till now.

Palaniswami assured the people that people’s essential needs in all areas, including the state’s containment zones, are being taken care of by the government. The government has announced cash assistance and provisions of free rice and pulses to rice ration card holders. It is also providing monetary assistance to those employed in the unorganised sector. In addition to this, the state is taking care of about 13,000 migrant labourers lodged in 311 facilities, he said.

For journalists, the chief minister announced that his government will bear all expenses on treatment if a journalist tests positive for the novel virus. An ex-gratia of Rs 5 lakh in the event of their death will also be provided, he said.

The chief minister also condemned “politics over a disease” taking place in the state. He castigated the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party for trying to find faults in the government’s handling of the pandemic in the state. Palaniswami accused DMK chief MK Stalin for “finding faults” at the time of every disaster. “This is a planned criticism [even] as we are effectively containing the spread,” he said.

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