Dharavi, the 630-acre urban sprawl in the heart of Mumbai, stood paralysed with fear after the first COVID-19 death was reported from the area Wednesday. Authorities Thursday sealed off and restricted the entry and exit of the 2,500 residents the housing complex where the 56-year-old deceased lived to ensure complete containment, even as BMC launched a probe to find if the virus transmission had any link to the Tablighi Jamaat gathering in New Delhi.
The civic body said they have traced at least four persons from Dharavi who had attended the Tablighi meet in Delhi. The 56-year-old man who died, civic officials suspect, may have had contact with one of them.
“We are checking if the man had met any of them. All the four persons have been sent to a quarantine facility in Sion,” Assistant Municipal Commissioner, G-north (Dadar, Sion), Kiran Dighavkar said.
Dharavi has a population density 10 times higher than the rest of the city. To contain the COVID-19 spread, restrictions have been imposed on the movement of residents of buildings adjoining the one where the deceased lived, civic officials said.
“We were shocked after news came that the Dharavi resident had tested coronavirus positive. Our biggest concern is that the virus should not spread to other members of the society, and more importantly in other parts of Dharavi. Just imagine how much damage it will cause as this is a very densely populated area,” Charles Anthony, secretary of the housing complex where the deceased resided, said.
There are eight buildings with 338 flats and 93 shops inside the housing complex which was constructed in 1976. On Thursday, a team of BMC officials reached complex and sanitised its garden and the building where the victim stayed. Civic officials have also identified 15 close contacts of the deceased and collected their nasal swab samples for test.
The Matunga Labour Camp lane, which leads to the housing complex, wore a deserted look through Thursday as local residents preferred to stay away from the building precincts that teemed with healthcare workers, screening residents with coronavirus-like symptoms.
Meanwhile, Anthony said residents of the housing society were gearing up for life under complete lockdown. “The daily supply of essentials like milk, vegetables, medicines and grains will be affected with the lockdown. Everybody is scared. We have requested members of the society to make a list of goods they want and then any one person from the complex will give it to the civic officials and accordingly arrangement will be made. We don’t want to spread this virus further so we are ready to cooperate with the BMC,” he said.
Two neighbouring housing complexes have also imposed restrictions on the entry and exit of people. “No one from these building is stepping out unless extremely necessary. We need to take the lockdown seriously,” Mobin Matwale, a resident of a nearby building, said.
An acquaintance of the deceased man said he used to run a factory in Dharavi and had taken a flat on rent in the society just two years ago. “We did not have much interaction with him. We only know that he was unwell since March 23 and did not have any travel history. He was being treated by a local doctor initially, but after his condition worsened, he was admitted to Sion hospital,” R Gopal Yadav, president of the society, said.
There are more than 20,000 small-scale units in Dharavi that operate cheek by jowl. BMC is now tracing the people who may have interacted with the deceased in the last few days.
“We have also sought two lists of residents who are more than 60 years old and those with respiratory problems. All of them will be checked,” Dighavkar said. He added the deceased was buried at a cemetery in Dharavi as per the laid down procedures.
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