April 19, 2021 9:58:55 pm
Dharavi, which had emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot in Mumbai by mid-April last year, is witnessing an uptick in cases since the last week of February 2021.
Active cases in Dharavi increased to 893 as of April 19 from just 33 on February 24, 2021. The number of daily cases had been below 30 after September, with no new cases reported in a period of 24 hours on six occasions — once in December, four days in January and once in February.
On February 24, the 2.5 sq km slum sprawl recorded 10 Covid cases in 24 hours, the first double-digit tally in 37 days. In the week after that, the BMC swung into action, screening the entire population of 8.5 lakh for temperature and oxygen levels, setting up nine BMC dispensaries along with fever clinics for walk-in check-ups and isolating the vulnerable, conducting tests at five centres in the area, mobile testing vans to reach narrow alleys, and disinfection of 425 public toilets. Vans were again dispatched in slums announcing the symptoms of Covid-19 and the location of fever camps.
“We went back to last year’s ‘Dharavi Model’ — screen, test and isolate,” said Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, G/North Ward.
From 10-15 tests a day in January, the number of tests in Dharavi was increased to over 100 a day. For every positive patient in the slum, the G/north ward is contact tracing between 15 and 22 people.
Dighavkar said nearly 70 per cent of those tested from Dharavi are asymptomatic. To control the spread of infection in a densely populated area, BMC had to re-activate institutional quarantine and isolation centres. By end of March, the 250-bed Covid care centre in Vanita Samaj hall was full.
The civic body is using a seven-storey, 23-room slum rehabilitation building in Dharavi to isolate those with mild symptoms, while Mahim Nature Park with 100 beds can be scaled up to 1,200.
Many of those who left Dharavi in last year’s exodus have returned, though numbers are difficult to ascertain. Dighavkar had said that around 70 per cent of Dharavi’s population comprises daily wage earners, of which over 1 lakh are migrant workers — employed in small-scale leather and packaging industries – and auto-rickshaw drivers, among others.
M A Rehaman, general secretary of Anjuman Bashindgan-E-Bihar, working with migrants from Bihar, said, “The travel situation is not as bad as last year. With train services working, many are waiting and watching. However, thousands are leaving every day from Dharavi for their hometowns.”
Rehaman, who also runs a small-scale industry making bags and hats, now has only five labourers working for him. Before the pandemic, he employed 20 people.
Dharavi, which had the BMC deeply worried last year, is not the worst affected area in G/North Ward, covering Dadar, Mahim and Dharavi areas. It is the upscale areas, highrises in Dadar and Mahim which are areas of concern.
“As seen across the city, in the second wave, cases from housing societies and upscale localities make up 80-90 per cent of the caseload. Similar is the case here. The infection spread in Dharavi is not as severe as it was last year,” said Dighavkar.
Since the uptick in daily cases, Dharavi has seen 50-70 cases every day, with an exception of 99 cases on April 8. In comparison, daily cases from Mahim and Dadar areas are near or above 100.
While active cases in Dharavi are below 1,000, Dadar has 2,080 and Mahim 2,286 as of April 18.
BMC officials said the aim in Dharavi is to increase vaccination. A vaccination centre at an urban health centre in Dharavi, popularly known as ‘Chhota Sion Hospital’, was opened on March 22. After a tepid response in the first 10 days, vaccination numbers picked up, going up to 500 inoculations on April 8. The centre has vaccinated 7775 citizens till date, of which the majority are from Dharavi.
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