July 3, 2022

Chennai Corporation starts COVID-19 testing at all luxury hotels

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Chennai Corporation starts COVID-19 testing at all luxury hotels

The Greater Chennai Corporation (GCC) has ordered COVID-19 testing of all employees of luxury hotels in the city, following reports of a cluster at ITC Grand Chola.

Chennai Corporation Deputy Commissioner (Health) S. Divyadharshini said the civic body will complete COVID-19 testing of more than 25 luxury hotels in two days. The civic body started testing all luxury hotels on Saturday. The testing of all employees will be completed by Sunday.

The Greater Chennai Corporation tested 609 employees of ITC Grand Chola and 85 of them tested positive for COVID-19. “We have directed ITC Grand Chola to cancel all banquets for 10 days. We will do saturation testing at all luxury hotels,” said Ms. Divyadharshini.

Also read: Two more samples have returned negative for UK variant of COVID-19, TN Health Secretary says

The civic body has issued an advisory to all luxury hotels to maintain physical distancing norms as per standard operating procedure.

Chennai Corporation officials in all the 15 zones have directed hotels to follow the regulations pertaining to the number of persons permitted for events. Currently, the number of persons permitted for a banquet depends on the seating capacity of the hall. According to officials, the number of persons should not exceed 50{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} of the seating capacity of the hall.

The normal seating capacity of a 9,000 sq ft hall is estimated at 1,000, with each individual getting 9 sq ft of space. Owing to COVID-19 restrictions, event organisers have been asked to permit only 500 persons in a 9,000 sq ft hall, instead of 1,000. Officials will collect a fine of ₹5000 from event organisers and the hall owner for violations of physical distancing norms. The fine amount for individuals violating physical distancing norms is ₹500 during such events.

Hotel response

Meanwhile, ITC Grand Chola sources said in a statement: “The health and safety of our guests and associates is of paramount importance. The property has been practising the necessary SOPs laid down by the authorities, along with its own accredited stringent sanitisation and hygiene protocol. From social distancing at public areas to rigorous kitchen hygiene, and regular health checks of associates, all safety and preventive measures are being meticulously followed. Every member of the team is trained and sensitised on following the prescribed prevention of protocol, in interest of their safety and that of guests.”

The hotel also said that while the GCC had classified some of the hotel’s associates as asymptomatic and mild, the majority of their associates were working from home and had been absent from the property and so have no contact with other associates and guests.

The hotel said: “All events at the property have been conducted in adherence to the norms mandated by the authorities. Additionally, only 50{d54a1665abf9e9c0a672e4d38f9dfbddcef0b06673b320158dd31c640423e2e5} capacity of the hall is used to ensure maximum distancing and safety. All associates are regularly tested and monitored. It is an ongoing process and part of our hygiene protocol. Extreme care and diligence continues to be followed at all touch points. All necessary information has been shared with the authorities.”

When contacted, T. Natarajan, Secretary, South India Hotels and Restaurants Association, said that they had advised all hotels to ensure that protocols were followed. “We have had several online training sessions for hotels on the protocols. We are telling them to let staff get isolated if they have the slightest of symptoms. Most hotels are providing isolation facilities for their staffers. We are getting employees tested by the Chennai Corporation on a regular basis,” he said.

A hotelier said that in many cases, wedding parties book multiple halls and though they invite a limited number if guests, more people turn up. “The host of the event cannot turn people away, and neither can we. Hotels instead are asking them to spread people in the halls or stagger timings so that they are all not bunched together,” he said.

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