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364% jump since June 1: Questions over contact-tracing, isolation measures as Covid cases rise in Mira Bhayander

While the jump in cases has been largely blamed on the huge floating population that travel frequently to Mumbai, a Covid-19 hotspot, public apathy to lockdown norms, limited funds with the corporation and a recent reshuffle at the top of the civic body have also added to the woes.

Written by Abha Goradia | Mumbai |
June 29, 2020 2:58:17 am
Mumbai coronavirus news update, mumbai covid cases, Mira Bhayander covid cases, mumbai active covid cases, indian express news Activists, meanwhile, have questioned the decision to transfer top civic officials amid the pandemic. (Representational)

A burgeoning satellite town in Mumbai’s vast outback, Mira Bhayander has registered a 364 per cent jump in the total number of Covid-19 cases since June 1. The spike, from 699 cases and 13 deaths recorded on June 1 to 3,246 cases and 116 deaths on June 28, has raised questions on the contact-tracing, isolation and treatment measures implemented by the Mira Bhayander Municipal Corporation (MBMC).

While the jump in cases has been largely blamed on the huge floating population that travel frequently to Mumbai, a Covid-19 hotspot, public apathy to lockdown norms, limited funds with the corporation and a recent reshuffle at the top of the civic body have also added to the woes.

Ovala-Majiwada MLA and Shiv Sena leader, Pratap Sarnaik, said in all there were around 100 ventilator-equipped beds available in the municipal area. “Out of every 20 positive patients, at least one needs a ventilator, that too for at least a period of 12 days,” he said, adding that a shortage of ventilators has been a major issue in the area.

With a single civic-run hospital — Pandit Bhimsen Joshi Hospital at Bhayander — dedicated to Covid-19 care, the municipal body had roped in 13 private hospitals to increase the dedicated beds to nearly 700. Two dedicated Covid Care Centre equipped with ventilators at Meenatai Balasaheb Thackeray Hall and Pramod Mahajan Thackeray Hall, both owned by the civic body, are also in the final leg of completion. The two facilities, the Sena MLA said, were expected to add 370 beds to the pool.

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“We still need at least 1,000 beds more and about 200 ventilators. Thane city itself has over 1,500 beds. Funds with MBMC are less and the corporation is mostly dependent on the government,” Sarnaik said. He added of the Rs 15 crore he had received from the state for Covid-19 related works, a total of Rs 5 crore was being utilised for the two centres.

Activists, meanwhile, have questioned the decision to transfer top civic officials amid the pandemic.

Dr Vijay Rathod, earlier posted as the Chief Executive Officer of Gadchiroli Zilla Parishad, took charge as the new MBMC commissioner on June 25 after his predecessor, Chandrakant Dange, was transferred. Dange, activists pointed out, was allowed tenure of about four months since he took over in mid-February.

“The decision to shunt the previous commissioner, Chandrakant Dange, has been immature, given that he had gained knowledge of the situation in this area in the past three months. He was known to be hardworking, active and sincere in his efforts. Barely giving him any time, the state announced his transfer. The new commissioner now will require some time until he grasps the situation at hand,” activist and founder of Mira-Bhayander-based Satyakaam foundation Krishna Gupta said.

Sarnaik and BJP MLA Geeta Jain, too, admitted there were no complaints regarding Dange’s work.

Recently, in an interview to The Indian Express, Principal Advisor to the chief minister, Ajoy Mehta, said the state administration was not happy about the state of affairs in municipalities in Mumbai Metropolitan Region, including MBMC. “These areas need to make more efforts towards testing, tracking and isolating… The surveillance in these areas was weak, and there was a lack of ownership in tracing contacts of Covid-19 cases,” he said.

When contacted, Rathod said, “The protocols on handling Covid-19 cases have been quite clear. We need to ensure timely quarantine, improve critical management facilities along with contact tracing. My aim is to increase the sampling size by 100 and reduce the death rate.” The current sampling size of MBMC is about 400 per day.

Mira-Bhayander belt shares its border with north Mumbai which has also seen a significant rise in Covid-19 cases. Around 80 per cent of residents from Mira-Bhayander travel to Mumbai for work, bringing back the virus from there, Jain said. “Moreover, after unlock measures were announced, a sizeable number of people abandoned safety measures and displayed a carefree attitude,” she said.

As more and more people venture out, Deputy Mayor Hasmukh Gehlot said, the cases were bound to rise. “We have continued to spread awareness. Currently, there are 1,000 building-wise containment zones.”

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