Chennai: Tamil Nadu recorded two COVID-19 deaths on Saturday, both having a connection to the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi, as it added a significant number of positive cases with travel history to the national capital for the religious meet.
With a section of people showing a "casual" attitude towards the lockdown enforced by the government to prevent the spread of the contagion, business hours of shops selling essential items were cut down to restrict public movement.
Chief minister K Palaniswami appealed against giving a communal colour to the spread of the disease and requested people to avoid religious congregations and strictly maintain social distancing.
On Saturday, the virus-triggered fatalities in the state touched three, even as the overall confirmed cases stood at 485, next only to Maharashtra with 635 infected persons.
A 51-year-old man from Villupuram and a woman aged 53 from Theni succumbed to the virus on Saturday, with the previous victim being a 54-year-old male from Madurai who died last week.
The deceased from Villupuram had earlier travelled to Delhi to attend the Tablighi Jamaat event and was undergoing treatment at the Villupuram Medical College Hospital.
He died this morning after developing difficulty in breathing, the Health department said.
Later in the day, the women breathed her last at the Theni Medical College Hospital. She was a contact of her COVID-19 positive husband, who had visited Delhi earlier to participate in the Nizamuddin religious meet.
Citing her case, health secretary Beela Rajesh stressed on the need for persons having attended the Jamaat meet to voluntarily turn up before authorities for medical attention.
"That is why the chief minister and the government have been repeatedly asking people to come forward if they had gone to attend that religious conference in New Delhi," she said.
Further, the state added another 74 positive cases of coronavirus infection, taking the total in the state to 485.
Of the 74, as many as 73 had attended the Nizamuddin event, while the other person had been in contact with a person who had travelled abroad, Rajesh said.
Rajesh said while the whole world was facing a challenge to contain the disease, COVID-19 for India was like a 'medical disaster'.
"For a country like ours, it is a medical disaster. We cannot predict how the condition of a (coronavirus) patient will change," she said, adding that the government's focus was on containment activities and encouraging social distancing.
She said the containment activities have been increased and so far 7.23 lakh households with a population of 29 lakh have been screened by over 11,000 field staff of the health department.
The containment zones have been set up based on the number of positive cases an area or a locality has reported.
While the state's total positive cases as on Saturday stood at 485, as many as 437 of them had attended the religious meet, according to government data.
Meanwhile, the government imposed fresh curbs and announced curtailing the business hours of shops selling essential commodities by 90 minutes.
The move came a day after Palaniswami warned of tightening the ongoing lockdown as many were not following the prohibitory orders clamped to implement it and were "casual" about it.
"To further curtail public movement, the time allowed for them (people) to buy essential items is being revised from 6 am to 1 pm and this would come into effect from April 5 (Sunday)," he said in a statement.
Currently, shops selling essential items are allowed to transact business from 6 am to 2.30 pm.
Further, he also appealed that "people should avoid giving communal colour to this (virus) and should not show hatred to those affected by it," he said.
His appeal came at a time when Nizamuddin West in Delhi has emerged as an epicentre for the spread of coronavirus in different parts of the country after thousands of people took part in a religious congregation organised by Tablighi Jamaat from March 1-15 and returned to their states.
The virus-affected persons should be shown love and compassion, the chief minister added....