The number of new COVID-19 cases have dipped in north Chennai but compliance with mask wearing and physical distancing norms is still lacking in a number of areas.
Many residents and shopkeepers, who do use masks, tend to pull them below their chins, defeating the purpose of wearing one. When compared to previous months, usage of masks has improved across many parts of north Chennai. Nevertheless, it is common to see people in areas including Pulianthope, Vyasarpadi, Mint and Walltax Road without masks or wearing them improperly.
According to officials of the Greater Chennai Corporation, the number of new cases has dipped drastically in Tondiarpet and Royapuram, zones that once accounted for a large portion of cases. “North Chennai now accounts for roughly less than 20% of new cases reported in the city every day. Tondiarpet has approximately 40 to 60 cases a day, while Royapuram reports 60 to 80,” an official said.
‘Yet to become a habit’
A resident of Vyasarpadi, Raghuraman (name changed on request), said many residents of his locality do not wear masks.
“The awareness that masks should be worn has definitely reached people but it is yet to become a habit. Many do not wear them if they move around within their locality. Some find it difficult to wear masks continuously. A majority of office-goers do wear them when they start from their homes,” he said.
Prabhdeep Kaur, scientist E/deputy director, Indian Council of Medical Research-National Institute of Epidemiology, said overall, the compliance with wearing masks has improved. “We see good adherence in places such as shops. Everyone has a mask but many tend to pull it down. This is something that needs to be focused on as mobility has increased in the city and people should wear masks properly.”
However, the practice of wearing masks as well as maintaining physical distancing should improve, she said, adding, “There is no spike in cases in north Chennai and the GCC has been testing a lot. Awareness is being created through NGOs, and what is required is behavioural change, which will take time. Proper use of masks should be implemented at the workplace level.” Ms. Kaur added that physical distancing norms were still not being followed in many public places.
Focus on market areas
An official of the GCC said the use of masks had definitely improved by leaps and bounds in north Chennai. “While travelling, we can see eight to nine persons out of 10 wearing a mask. This could be one of the reasons for the number of cases plateauing in parts of north Chennai,” a Corporation official said.
“We have roped in staff of the Revenue Department to enforce mask wearing in market areas,” he added.
The Corporation has distributed 40 to 50 lakh masks to residents in city slums, he said. “Certain areas in zone 4 — Tondiarpet — are still a challenge. We are continuing to create awareness. There should be no false sense of security or complacency if there are no new cases in the neighbourhood,” he added.