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It's Safe To Wear Masks In Crowded Places: TN Health Minister

Tamil Nadu never announced any relaxation in following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and it is safe to wear a mask in crowded places, state Health Minister Ma Subramanian

Covid precaution at Chennai airport
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Tamil Nadu never announced any relaxation in following COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and it is safe to wear a mask in crowded places, state Health Minister Ma Subramanian said on Sunday amid a surge in coronavirus infections overseas.

The minister said health department officials have been instructed to mandatorily take RT-PCR tests of all the passengers at the international airport who arrive from countries where the spread of infection has been high.

Beginning Saturday, Tamil Nadu has resumed random testing of international passengers arriving at the airports in the state.

"Wearing a mask, hand hygiene are already covered under COVID-19 protocols. We have not announced any kind of relaxation. All the COVID-19 standard operating procedures still remain. It is safe to wear a mask in crowded places like malls, air conditioned environments," he told reporters here.

"Instead of discussing whether it is mandatory or not, it is safe to wear a mask to protect ourselves," he said.

The minister said samples from those places that report two or three COVID-19 infections are collected to conduct genomic sequencing analysis based on the Centre's advisory.

Tamil Nadu has already reported the BF.5 variant of Omicron and the present BF.7 variant reported overseas is a sub-variant of the virus, he said.

Subramanian said based on a social media post by Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, it has been decided to mandatorily conduct RT-PCR tests of all passengers who arrive from countries like China, Taiwan, South Korea where COVID-19 cases are high.

"We did not formally receive instruction from the Union government in this connection. As soon as we saw the social media post of the Union minister, we have instructed our health department officials to mandatorily hold RT-PCR tests to such passengers in all the four international airports of the state," he said.

Transit passengers who arrive from these countries would also be covered in this exercise, the minister said.

On the virus spread in Tamil Nadu, Subramanian said new infections were reported in single digit over the last 15 days and about 4,000 to 5,000 people undergo RT-PCR tests on a daily basis.

"Single digit COVID-19 cases were reported in March 2020 in Tamil Nadu when the coronavirus infections were first detected in the state. During the last 15 days, the state has been reporting below 10 cases," he said.

"People need not panic. The government is taking all precautionary

measures to prevent the spread of the virus," he said.

On the vaccination front, Subramanian said 96 per cent of the population has received the first dose while 92 per cent have received the second dose.

"Immunity levels among people have increased and that is the reason the state has not reported COVID-19 related deaths during the last six-seven months. We expect this trend to continue," he said.

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