97 test positive for Covid-19 at ITC Grand Chola in Chennai; 25 at another luxury hotel

Following Covid-19 relaxations, luxury hotels are emerging as a Covid-19 cluster after educational institutions in Chennai. From December 15 onwards up to January 3, a total of 97 people from ITC Grand Chola in Chennai have tested positive. The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) is using a saturation approach (a method to test everyone in a hotspot) in at least 35 luxury hotels in the city that are host weddings and public functions. In total, as many as 114 employees have tested positive for Covid-19 out of the 2,226 tested in star-category hotels.

“In other hotels, there are 11 cases which are isolated and not indicative of a cluster,” said health secretary J Radhakrishnan. “As a measure of abundant caution, on a rotational basis we test hostels, hotels, education institutions every three weeks. Our focus is locations where more than 20 people gather whether it is in public places or gated communalities and beach houses.”

“In the last two days, we tested 232 employees of another 5-star hotel and 20 staff have turned positive,” said S Divyahdrashini, deputy commissioner for health, GCC.

At ITC, a total of 650 samples were collected as of Sunday of which 85 turned positive. As many as 16 and 13 cases were reported on December 31, 2020, and January 1, 2021, after the first case was reported when a chef got infected at the hotel. The guests are not yet tested, said Divyahdrashini.

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ITC Grand Chola, in a statement, said that all 85 staff patients are asymptomatic and are being treated at home. The statement added that all events at the property have been conducted following standard operating procedure with 50 per cent capacity in halls. Last month, the Election Commission of India also conducted a press meet at the hotel following social distancing norms.

“We have been conducting random testing since November at hotels, market places, educational institutions which is how we picked up this (ITC) cluster,” said Divyadharshini. “We will start random testing at 1,000 smaller restaurants in the city.”

Previously, a Covid-19 cluster emerged out of IIT-Madras in mid-December 2020 where 191 people on campus had tested positive following which testing was intensified at all educational institutions across Tamil Nadu.

As of January 3, Tamil Nadu has reported 8,20,712 positive cases pf Covid-19 and 12,156 deaths with 8,00,429 patients discharged.

Approximately, 2,300 passengers have entered the state from the United Kingdom between November 25 and December 23 of which a total of 2,146 passengers were tested. 24 passengers from the UK have tested positive while only one person is found to have the new coronavirus variant detected in the UK.

The state also conducted a dry run for Covid-19 vaccine administration in five districts including Chennai on Saturday.

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