The Health Department on Friday confirmed three more COVID-19 cases in the 17 tribal settlements in the Anamalai Tiger Reserve (ATR) at Udumalpet in Tiruppur district, days after these settlements reported its first positive case.
Health officials told The Hindu that a 55-year-old man and 45-year-old woman from Mavadappu settlement and a 40-year-old woman from Kurumalai settlement had tested positive. A total of 136 swab samples were lifted from four tribal settlements – Mavadappu, Kurumalai, Kulipatti and Kattupatti – on Wednesday to test for COVID-19, out of which three had returned positive.
The Health Department made arrangements to transport the patients from their settlements to Udumalpet in ‘108’ ambulances for treatment, the officials added.
Earlier in the week, a 31-year-old pregnant woman from Kulipatti tribal settlement became the first confirmed COVID-19 case in the 17 settlements when she was tested after delivery at the Udumalpet Government Hospital. She was later shifted to the COVID-19 care centre at the upgraded primary health centre in Erisinampatti for treatment. The health officials noted that none of the 74 swab samples that were lifted in Kulipatti on Wednesday had returned positive.
Forest Department sources alleged that the residents of Madavappu and Kurumalai had been visiting the neighbouring tribal settlements despite directions to not leave their own settlements as part of the COVID-19 safety protocol.
Following these COVID-19 cases, restrictions in 17 tribal settlements will likely be intensified and more medical camps and awareness events will be held to prevent any further spread, the sources said.
Tribal welfare activist S. Thanraj urged the Tiruppur district administration to ensure better access to healthcare to all the 17 tribal settlements in the wake of the new COVID-19 cases. “The [State] government must ensure that there are adequate facilities for isolation and treatment in their own settlements,” he said, adding that better road connectivity was required for ambulances to reach these remote settlements in the ATR.
Mr. Thanraj also urged the Health Department to examine whether the deaths that occurred in the past two months in these settlements were due to COVID-19.
District Collector S. Vineeth told The Hindu on Friday that the district administration will ramp up the door-to-door fever surveys in all the 17 tribal settlements in ATR limits. Along with Health Department personnel, the panchayat staff will also be involved in this initiative, he said. “If any symptoms, we will get them again tested. That will be the way forward,” Mr. Vineeth said. The possibilities to improve the healthcare facilities for the tribal settlements will also be explored, he added.