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TN Revives Face Mask Rule; Violators To Cough Up Rs 500

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Chennai, April 22 (PTI): Amid a surge in Covid-19 cases and laxity among people in following the health protocol, the Tamil Nadu government on Friday re-introduced levying penalty on those who don’t wear a face-mask and directed officials of the departments concerned to ensure that the rule was strictly followed across the State.

The decision to collect a fine of Rs 500 from members of the public was taken in the backdrop of laxity among people in adhering to Covid-19 protocol while in public places, principal health secretary J Radhakrishnan said.

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“We have directed the officials of local administration, health and police departments to collect fines from those who are not seen wearing a mask while in public places,” he told reporters.

After showing a decline in Covid-19 cases, both daily additions as well as the active cases in the State have been on the rise over the past few days, with the State witnessing 39 new infections on Thursday thereby taking the active infections to 256.

Admitting that collection of the fine for not wearing a mask was relaxed earlier (as new cases were dropping in Tamil Nadu), Radhakrishnan said these days people were not seen wearing a face-mask while in public.

“They may be travelling by a metropolitan bus or in a crowded public place, but they are not seen wearing a mask. We have instructed officials in all the districts to ensure people wear a mask,” he said.

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“The department earlier collected a total fine of over Rs 110 crore from over 60 lakh people for not wear a mask. However, there was relaxation from collecting the fine then. Now, we have instructed Collectors, officials of local administration, health department, police to create awareness on Covid-19 protocol and also collect fine of Rs 500 from people who do not wear a face mask,” he said.

He said the cases were spreading in Shanghai, China, in Europe, and in some South Asian countries.

Radhakrishnan and senior health department officials were inspecting the premises of the Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, here which reported 12 coronavirus cases on Thursday, even as 18 new infections have emerged.

“From the 700-odd samples collected on Thursday, 18 more people have tested positive totalling 30 till date. All of them are vaccinated and are doing well,” he said.

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He said some students have arrived from various States and their samples were also sent for genome sequencing analysis and that the result was expected to be out in two-three weeks to identify the variant of Covid-19.

The Covid-19 protocol should be strictly followed on the campus and the institute authorities have been given necessary guidelines in this connection, he said.

“All the people who tested positive were having mild symptoms like sore throat, fever and they are under isolation. They do not require hospitalisation. But, it has been decided to keep King Institute of Preventive Medicine and Research (in the city) as a reserve hospital”, the official said.

The IIT-M officials were instructed that those individuals who had submitted their samples should be staying indoors instead of venturing out or else they would have further spread the virus, he said.

Allaying fears over the spread, he said 1,16,451 beds had been earmarked to treat Covid-19 patients at government hospitals, and only 18 people were currently undergoing treatment.

“Though it is good news, people are not following Covid-appropriate behaviour which may lead to resurgence of the virus. Therefore, our appeal is that people should wear a mask while in public places, get vaccinated if they are eligible,” he said.

Referring to several students arriving at IIT-M from various States, he said such students should also be responsible by ‘self-monitoring their health.’ “For example, if they have a sore throat or fever they should go and take a (Covid-19) test,” Radhakrishnan said.

He said the incident at IIT-M was not isolated, it may happen anywhere if people do not follow the Covid-19 protocol.

“People should not show any laxity in following the Covid-19 protocol. If they are eligible to receive vaccinations, they should take them without hesitation,” he said.

Giving some figures on vaccination, he said 1.40 lakh eligible people in Tamil Nadu were yet to receive second dose while 40 lakh people the first dose. About 5-6 lakh people have not received their booster dose even though they are eligible to receive it, he said.

Radhakrishnan said the government has directed the health department to step up the testing of samples to 25,000 per day from 18,000 on Thursday.

The health department was planning to hold a mega vaccination drive similar to the past exercise in May, he said.

“…we have instructed health officials to hold micro-vaccination campaigns at the local-level and encourage eligible people to receive the shots,” he said.

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