MAHARASHTRA needs more institutional quarantine facilities and a ramp-up of its contact tracing programme in slum pockets to contain the spread of coronavirus in Mumbai, a central team told state authorities on Wednesday.
Following an on-spot assessment of COVID-19 care arrangements in Asia’s largest slum Dharavi and another slum settlement at Marol in Andheri, an inter-ministerial central team (IMCT), headed by Additional Secretary (Ministry of Food Processing Industries) Manoj Joshi, instructed officials to augment quarantine facilities in dense slum pockets.
Concerned over the high infection rate and routine lockdown violations in Mumbai, the Home Ministry had earlier sent two separate IMCTs to Mumbai and Pune, authorising them to even give directions to the state authorities.
Joshi told The Indian Express, “We have sought more data from the BMC on how many people have been tested (for coronavirus) in the major slum colonies. We have also asked for more data regarding quarantine arrangements in these dense pockets.”
Once cases started being detected in Dharavi and the other slum pockets of Mumbai, the sheer density of population has sparked fears of community transmission. In Dharavi alone, which has now seen 189 cases including 12 deaths, more than 60,000 families and roughly 8.5 lakh people are cramped in a 2.4 sq km sprawl, making it one of the densest human habitations in the world. Advocating aggressive isolation of the infection as the best form of defence in dense habitations, the central team, on Wednesday, demanded a 200 per cent increase in institutional quarantine-beds. Local assistant commissioner Kiran Dighavkar said, “We’ve set up quarantine camps that can accommodate 1,000 people at one time. The central team has asked us to augment this to accommodate up to 3,000.”
On Wednesday, when the IMCT visited Dharavi, local authorities highlighted these challenges, while presenting how they had resorted to swift contact tracing and aggressive isolation of high-risk categories. Between April 1 (when the first case was reported in the area) and Wednesday, Dighavkar claimed they screened a population of 40,000 people in the settlement with the help of private medics and fewer clinics. “We have taken swabs of 680 people. So far 2,780 people have been put under observation. This include 2,100 under home quarantine and 680 under institutional quarantine. Of the latter , 210 have been discharged,” Dighavkar told the team, while showing them quarantine facilities set up by the BMC — a 300-bed facility at the Rajiv Gandhi Sports Complex and another 700-bed facility in a municipal school complex.
Earlier on Tuesday, the team had visited another dense hotspot of Worli Koliwada, while on Thursday it is expected to visit slum settlements near Govandi.
The Centre has also taken cognisance of allegations made by Leader of Opposition (Assembly) Devendra Fadnavis regarding violation of ICMR’s protocols regarding handling of COVID-19 suspect deaths by major hospitals in Mumbai.
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