By Quaid Najmi
Marking a major success story, Mumbai’s sore underbelly – Dharavi – has made a dramatic return from the brink in the ongoing war against coronavirus.
As per the latest official data released on Sunday, Dharavi’s doubling time of corona cases has become more than twice compared with the wider Mumbai city – indicating a major turnaround in the situation there.
With a series of stringent measures for Covid-19 prevention, combat strategies and strict enforcement implemented, the results finally have begun to show in the hotspot.
“The Dharavi ‘tension’ is off our heads now. We have worked really hard to bring it to this level and it has given excellent results with the local peoples’ full support,” an elated Mumbai Mayor Kishori Pednekar told IANS.
She said that the multi-pronged strategy also involved isolation in large numbers to “break the chain” and the local population extended wholehearted cooperation in this.
“I am confident that the situation in Dharavi will improve even further in July. This will give us time to concentrate on the eastern and western suburbs of Mumbai which are causing concern,” Pednekar added.
Dharavi, in south-central Mumbai, enjoys a dubious reputation of being Asia’s largest slum pocket with a population of over 5 lakh crammed in a 2.25 square km area, making it the most congested place on earth.
While the doubling rate of Covid-19 cases in Mumbai is 34 days, that in Dharavi is practically double at 78 days, according to the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Union Health Ministry.
The first Covid-19 case and death from Dharavi was reported on April 1 – three weeks after the city’s first case and two weeks after Maharashtra’s first fatality in Mumbai (March 17).
During April, Dharavi figures shot up dramatically to 491 cases at a growth rate of 12 per cent and a doubling period of 18 days.
After the proactive measures by the BMC, the growth rate came down to 4.3 per cent in May and to 1.02 per cent in June.
Similarly, the doubling time improved from 18 days in April to 43 days in May and now 78 days in June, spelling a huge relief for the civic and state health authorities.
Doubling time of over 30 days is considered ideal, but Mumbai had a doubling period of 15 days around mid-May.
While Mumbai has notched 65,329 cases and 3,561 deaths, in Dharavi, the latest data shows 2,170 cases with 79 deaths till date, including only nine so far this month.
The challenges in Dharavi were enormous with average 8-10 people packed in tiny homes or hutments averaging to 10 feet by 10 feet, common toilets used by over 100 people, common water taps used by thousands daily, sheer narrow lanes where two people have to turn sideways to pass, and other crowding issues, said an official.
“This posed severe limitations on luxuries like ‘physical distancing’ or ‘home quarantine’, since many homes also doubled as workplaces or mini-factories.”
Accordingly, the BMC adopted a model 4 Ts – Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating, proactive screening with over 47,500 people covered by medicos and private clinics in home-to-home screening, and setting up fever clinics for high-risk categories, etc.
Another around 15,000 through mobile vans and around half a million were surveyed scrupulously by the civic health teams, with around 8,246 senior citizens were identified and separated from the others to arrest any infections, for a total of 5,48,270 surveyed and screened in Dharavi.
Of these, as Pednekar said, the suspected cases were immediately shifted to well-organised Covid Care Centres or Quarantine Centres, set up in all possible schools, marriage halls, sports complexes, etc, served by community kitchens with 24×7 medical services at hand.
The BMC also forged strategic PPPs for containment measures, all available private medicos, clinics and hospitals were mobilised, and provided with full PPE kits and other equipment for door-to-door screening and identifying the suspects as early as possible.
As part of the effective containment strategy, there was uninterrupted supply of essential goods and supplies to the local community, and only critical patients were shifted out of Dharavi to hospitals while 90 per cent got full treatment within the slum area.
The BMC distributed over 25,000 grocery kits, 21,000 lunch and dinner food packets, local elected representatives also supplied foodstuffs and PPE kits, etc free of cost, thereby eliminating the need for people to move out of their homes.
There was frequent large-scale sanitisation of the containment zones or sealed localities, public toilets, buses operated for staff movement, local community leaders of different communities were appointed as ‘Covid Yoddhas’ to serve as a link with the authorities and dispel any fears or concerns of their members.
(Quaid Najmi can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)