Contact tracing is becoming a challenging task for civic staff with close to 1,000 new Covid-19 cases each day in Mumbai. The process is getting delayed as, in some cases, it takes at least two to three days, after a suspected patient tests positive, to put people under quarantine or explain home quarantine rules to them. This poses a higher risk of wider transmission of the infection.
In one such case, a 67-year-old Bandra resident died after suffering from breathlessness and high creatinine levels on May 13. Since his Covid-19 test reports were pending, the private hospital did not seal the body and directly handed it over to the family, which kept his body in a coffin full of ice overnight in their chawl room. The next day, eight people buried him in a nearby cemetery. His samples tested positive two days later, on May 15. But it was only on Saturday that a civic official visited the chawl.
“In those three days, we did not know if we were supposed to remain indoors. We were not even sure if he had Covid-19 until the report came in,” said a neighbour, who had accompanied the man to hospital. The private laboratory informed the BMC ward officer on Friday, but it was only on Saturday that his name appeared in the list of newly infected cases. H-West Ward (Bandra) Officer Dr Sanjay Funde said, “In the listing, his name has been added today (May 16). Accordingly, our civic staff went to sensitise the family.”
While laboratories are taking two days to give Covid-19 results, civic officials said they hardly had staff left to tackle the fresh Covid-19 load every day. On Friday, Mumbai recorded 933 cases. In several cases, after a patient dies, the family conducts final rites and returns home, only to know later that the deceased was infected with Covid-19.
In another case, a Dharavi resident died on May 10 in Sion hospital’s emergency ward. His laboratory report came out as positive the next day. “When nobody from the BMC called us or inquired about how many family members were exposed, we decided to get ourselves quarantined and tested. We went to quarantine centres with his reports two days after his death. On insistence, my mother and uncle were tested, both were positive. But the rest of us are yet to be tested,” said the son of the deceased patient.
Assistant Commissioner Vinayak Vispute said their staff immediately reached out to high-risk contacts once a report was declared positive. “Based on whether they require institutional quarantine or can stay at home, a decision to explain quarantine rules to them is taken. It is expected people follow home quarantine if a family member dies of suspected Covid-19 symptoms,” he said.
In India, on an average, one person infects 1.23 others who come in close contact. In Mumbai slums, with people living in close quarters, a higher infection rate is noticed. For instance, the deceased senior citizen from Dharavi infected at least two of his family members, and other five are yet to be tested.
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