Health Minister Dr Harsh Vardhan Wednesday reviewed the status of Maharashtra and Gujarat and asked states to focus on surveillance and contact tracing. The official position remains that there is no community transmission in the country.
“The Mumbai situation is very worrying,” a source said. “Nationally, for about 12,76,781 tests, we have about 50,000 cases, which comes to a positivity rate of about 3%. Mumbai, on the other hand, has about 11,000 cases against about 73,000 tests done, which comes to a positivity rate of about 15%. This is way too high. There are also questions about where the samples are coming from and how effective the contact tracing is, given these numbers.”
However Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai has contested the Centre’s figures. “MCGM has expanded its lab capacity in March 2020 by roping in the private labs to do the test. Today, MCGM has crossed 1 lakh COVID tests mark in the city of Mumbai through 6 public sector labs and 11 private labs. Positivity rate among tested is 10%,” MCGM said in a statement.
Mumbai was among the earliest coronavirus hotspots and has been the primary contributor to Maharashtra’s tally of 15,525 cases and 617 deaths. There are also concerns about the crowded living conditions in the urban slums of the city, especially Dharavi, from where cases are now being regularly reported.
“There is no community transmission in the country as a whole, some places are reporting more cases. But it is also a fact that people are less careful in urban areas than in rural ones. They have a sense of invincibility. As for the mortality, it is clear that in some cases they seem to have arrived late to hospital,” a senior government functionary said, emphasising the need to remove the stigma associated with the disease.
A death audit report submitted by a committee set up by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation had earlier found that while the average time between the onset of Covid-19 symptoms in a person and death was 6.4 days in Mumbai, the average time between hospital admission and death was 2.4 days. In some international studies, the latter figure is over 15 days. This meant that people in Mumbai were arriving late to hospital, when their chances of survival were far less.
India on Wednesday reported 2,680 fresh coronavirus cases and 111 deaths, taking the total tally to 49,391 cases and 1,694 deaths. In his review meeting, the Health Minister also expressed concerns about the high mortality rates in some districts of both Maharashtra and Gujarat.
“States need to focus on more effective surveillance, contact tracing and early diagnosis, to reduce high fatality rate. Proper interventions, screening and testing of Severe Acute Respiratory Infections /Influenza Like Illness cases need adequate attention as this may prevent the spread of infection in other areas. The implementation of an effective containment strategy needs be the top priority of states to reduce the mortality rate. It is the need of the hour to take preventive, pre-emptive and comprehensive measures in a systematic manner and follow the protocols laid down by the Centre,” Dr Harsh Vardhan said.