Updated: June 4, 2021 10:22:00 am
For around 3,500 domestic breeding checkers (DBCs) employed by the three municipal corporations, the pandemic has posed fresh challenges in checking the spread of mosquito-borne diseases.
Even as Delhi has recorded 29 dengue cases between January 1 and May 29 – the highest in the past four years in this period – fear of contracting Covid has meant several workers have been denied entry into homes to check for breeding of larvae.
The action taken report of the three corporations — South, North and East — shows that in the last two years, the number of visits by health workers, legal notices issued, number of houses found positive, and prosecutions launched, has fallen as compared to pre-Covid years.
As per data from the South Delhi Municipal Corporation, the nodal agency for tabulating data on vector-borne diseases for the national capital, there have been just 44 lakh home visits in 2020 and 66 lakh in 2021. In 2019 and 2018, home visits were over 1 crore – 1.16 crore and 1.20 crore respectively.
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Similarly, the number of legal notices issued has also decreased to around 3,700 in 2020 and 6,700 in 2021 till May 31. The numbers were over thrice this in 2019 and 2018 at 16,000 and over 29,000 respectively.
DBC worker Debanand Sharma, who works in Sangam Vihar and adjoining areas, said 90 out of 100 people would let them enter their homes earlier.
“Now, fewer than 20 people let us in. In such cases, we try and give medicines or granules used to kill larvae to people. In Sangam Vihar, residents say they have no option but to store water as supply is erratic… This, along with less surveillance, increases chances of mosquito breeding. In cases where coolers are outside we manage to check; if it is inside, we ask the owners to do so,” he said.
A large part of their job, said Sharma, also involves facing uncooperative residents who shut the door on their face to avoid being challaned, security guards in gated colonies who do not let them to enter, and climbing atop water tanks even if there are no stairs to check for larvae.
Another DBC worker Sunil said, “Apartment owners do not allow us to enter so we give medicines to guards and try to ensure that they put it in water tanks while we are there.”
The capital had seen a dengue outbreak in 2015, with 15,867 reported cases. In 2016, the city saw an outbreak of chikungunya, with over 1,000 cases. Since then, the civic bodies has stepped up operations.
To counter hesitation among residents and ensure the anti-mosquito drive isn’t hit, Mayor of North MCD Jai Prakash said packets of medicines (temefos granules) would be delivered to people so they themselves put it in areas where there is water stagnation.
According to officials, a possible spike in mosquito-borne infections this year will increase pressure on city hospitals that are reeling under Covid cases. “The two have some similar symptoms like fever, body ache and fatigue. Severe cases generally require monitoring at a hospital,” said a health official of Civic body.
Last week, the Delhi High Court had taken suo moto cognizance of mosquito infestation in Delhi and initiated a public interest litigation on the issue. While issuing a notice to the government and municipal bodies, the court asked them to inform it in a status report on the steps being taken to deal with the issue.
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