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Wednesday, January 26, 2022

‘Cases likely to peak in January 3rd week… prepared to handle 40,000 infections daily’

The BMC had relied on Covid-19 jumbo centres in the first two waves. We have decided to continue with them... We now have nine active jumbo facilities.

Written by Yogesh Naik | Mumbai |
Updated: January 9, 2022 7:41:40 am
BMC Additional Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani.

Yogesh Naik speaks to BMC Additional Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani, who has been at the forefront of the civic body’s efforts to contain Covid-19 since the pandemic began, on Omicron, how most cases are from high-rises and when he expects Mumbai to reach its peak.

Did you anticipate such large number of Covid-19 cases?

When we came to know of the Omicron surge in South Africa, followed by in the United Kingdom and other European nations, we felt that this wave may hit us. Looking at the transmissibility factor, we anticipated that the numbers would be huge. Hence, we were mentally prepared to take it on.

Is the BMC prepared to deal with the third wave?

The BMC had relied on Covid-19 jumbo centres in the first two waves. We have decided to continue with them… We now have nine active jumbo facilities. We are adding more beds and at present, we have 35,000 beds. We have floated a tender for medical oxygen supply and medicines.

The general consensus seems to be that Omicron is a mild variant.

To a certain extent, yes. Close to 90 per cent of the patients are asymptomatic. Things might be better in Mumbai because we have a high rate of vaccination and people follow norms. Very few people require hospitalisation or oxygen support, though the transmissibility rate of this variant is very high. But it is much milder than the earlier ones.

Should local trains be stopped for common people?

We are allowing only fully vaccinated people on local trains… If rules like wearing masks and sanitising hands are followed, it is more than enough. As of now, there is no need to stop trains for common people.

Should the timings of shops and eateries be regulated. In short, does Mumbai need a third lockdown?

We needed a lockdown earlier to develop infrastructure and get support systems in place. Our resources are now lined up. We don’t need time to upgrade the resources. If we curb shop timings, we experience more crowding… But yes attendance needs to be regulated and we are doing that.

Mumbai is likely to report how many case when its peaks?

We had thought that cases would peak at 25,000. But in the last three days, we have already recorded 20000 to 21000 cases per day. As per experts, we will peak in the third week of January. Let us wait for some more time… We are prepared to handle 40,000 cases per day.

All positive samples from December fourth week till the end were to be sent for genome sequencing. What are the results?

The results have started coming in. The last lot that was sent for genome sequencing, 55 per cent of the cases were of Omicron variant and 45 per cent of Delta. As of now, Omicron is dominant. By next week, results of another lot will come and tell us which variant is dominating.

Many infected are not testing as the facilities are short. While the government has asked BMC to conduct two lakh tests per day, it is only conducting 75,000 tests currently.

Testing must be targeted. If we test everyone, we will lose focus. We are targeting symptomatic, high-risk and close contacts and persons who go to crowded places. We are testing them early so to arrest the spread. We have 260 testing centres.

By when do you expect cases to reduce?

It is difficult to say. But as per experts, figures should come down by the third week of January.

A large number of healthcare workers are getting affected though they are vaccinated. This is resulting in manpower shortage in hospitals.

Some healthcare workers are getting infected, we are advising them to mask up. While going to hostels or houses, they must not mix with people freely. We have kept some beds reserved for them. Though they are infected, they recover in three to four days. We have also started recruiting more doctors.

You have toured Mumbai during the last two waves. Have you been able to tour Mumbai this time and which areas are witnessing maximum of number cased?

I have started touring again. Our analysis shows that 93 per cent of the cases are reported from high-rises. Most are from Andheri East, Andheri West, Bandra East and Bandra West.

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