With concerns hovering around a new widespread variant of coronavirus in the United Kingdom, Gokuldas Tejpal (GT) Hospital has been partially reconverted into a Covid-19 facility to exclusively admit those who have returned from the UK and West Asia and have symptoms of infection. All positive cases from the affected countries will be referred to GT Hospital.
“We have allocated only GT Hospital to admit these patients so that in case they are infected by the mutated viral strain, they don’t infect other Covid-19 patients and spread the infection further. It is important to separate them from others,” said Dr TP Lahane, director of Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER).
Forty beds in one building of GT Hospital will now be used for Covid-19 management while the remaining for non-Covid patients. Even as other dedicated Covid-19 hospitals across Mumbai run with less than half of their capacity and have ample beds, state officials said mixing patients of two different variants of the virus may pose a risk of further transmission in society.
“We have been asked to refer all Covid-19 positive cases from the UK or Middle East to GT Hospital. All other Covid-19 cases are treated here,” said Dr Akash Khobragade, medical superintendent in St George’s hospital. The 220-bedded hospital had only 35 patients admitted as on Monday.
As Covid-19 goes on a downward curve, other Covid centres in the city, too, have very few beds occupied. BKC Jumbo Centre has 279 of 1,026 beds occupied, in Dahisar jumbo centre 84 or 442 beds are occupied, in Mulund 135 of 932 beds are full, and in Seven Hills hospital 691 of 1,495 beds are full. In NESCO Goregaon, of the 2,040 beds only 136 are occupied.
BJP leader Kirit Somaiya has blamed that BMC is continuing to operate these centres to favour contractors appointed to maintain them. BMC’s additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani said that the civic body will continue use of all jumbo facilities until January-end. “We expect a second wave by January. Now with the UK variant, we are taking all precautions and keeping beds ready for possible spike in cases,” he said.
On Sunday, 934 passengers were screened at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in 13 flights from West Asia and Europe. Of them, 416 have been quarantined in Mumbai at their home or in hotels and hospitals, another 479 have travelled ahead to other states. Direct flights from the UK to India have been halted till December 31.
The state government is also sending samples of UK-return Covid-19 positive passengers for genome sequencing to the National Institute of Virology in Pune. Dr Pradeep Awate, state epidemiologist, said so far nobody has been found carrying the mutated virus. “It is normal for a virus to mutate as it jumps from one host to another. We are taking precautions in this case only because the virus has the ability to spread fast but it has not shown evidence of severe infection yet. There is no need to panic,” Awate said.
In April, GT Hospital had been converted into a dedicated Covid hospital, however, it was turned back into a non-Covid hospital earlier this month after it hardly got any patients to admit. The decision for partial conversion back into Covid centre was taken last week after India began screening of international passengers.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines