Official sources said that theatres were not discussed during the meeting of the panel of health experts with the Chief Minister last week
The State government’s decision to allow full occupancy in theatres has not gone down well among healthcare professionals and public health experts. Disappointed with the move, a cross-section of them felt this was a risk at a time when COVID-19 cases were on the decline and could prove detrimental to efforts taken till now.
Official sources said that theatres were not discussed during the meeting of the panel of health experts with the Chief Minister last week.
On Tuesday, the Facebook post of Aravinth Srinivas, resident doctor, Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER) in Puducherry, went viral. It was an open letter addressed to actors Vijay and Silambarasan, actors who had met the Chief Minister with the request to open up 100 % of theatres for the public, with a mind to help their upcoming film releases, and the Tamil Nadu government from “a poor, tired resident doctor”. He said thousands of doctors like him, healthcare workers, police officials and sanitary workers were tired. “We have worked so hard at the ground level to make sure the damage done is kept to as low as possible amidst an unprecedented pandemic”, he said in the post, which objected to opening up the theatres entirely.
Prabhdeep Kaur, deputy director of National Institute of Epidemiology, Chennai posted a tweet on Monday saying : “Closed spaces without social distancing are a perfect setting for explosive spread of COVID-19. Request public to avoid such settings”.
“We have done well in terms of achieving decline in cases, deaths and positivity. Detection of clusters suggests good surveillance and testing practices. If we sustain surveillance, testing, use of masks, distancing, avoid gatherings and crowds in closed spaces, it will help in saving lives and the economy. Lack of caution may lead to a spike and high burden on the health system,” Dr. Kaur said.
For government doctors, who were involved in COVID-19 patient care since March, the move has come as a disappointment. K. Senthil, president of Tamil Nadu Government Doctors Association, said, “Theatres will draw big crowds, and this is 100% not advisable. The spread of infection might have come down, but as healthcare professionals, our view is that this move is not advisable,” he said.
C.N. Raja, national vice president of Indian Medical Association, said allowing 100% occupancy in a closed environment is a risk at this moment. “In open spaces with good ventilation, the infection rate is low. Full occupancy is not advisable in closed spaces with no ventilation or fresh air. Theatres such as multiplexes cannot run without A/c and cannot keep the doors open. After a cluster was reported in a luxury hotel, the banquets were cancelled as it is a closed environment. The same applies to theatres,” he said.
Arvindh, a resident doctor in Chennai, who was posted on nearly 10 COVID-19 duties and tested positive for the infection while on duty, said, “It simply means that the budget and ego of movie producers and consumers is more important than the amount of money, time, energy and lives we have given away in the past one year to COVID-19. Health care professionals, and families who have lost someone to COVID-19 have seen death in the worst possible way. They didn’t even get to spend time in person in the last moments of their loved ones. Such a decision is disregard to all those who have worked so hard and who have lost loved ones.”
Health Secretary J. Radhakrishnan told reporters that Standard Operating Procedures had released for all places where the public converged. “The Revenue and Disaster Management has issued a government order. We will look into the details and respond,” he said.