Brinhanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s Additional Municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani speaks with Laxman Singh and Tabassum Barnagarwala about the civic body’s plans to tackle a third wave of Covid-19 infections and its roadmap for easing restrictions in the city. Excerpts
What are our preparations for the third wave?
We will have over 20,000 isolation beds in the city for the third wave. At least 8,320 new beds are already being added, of which 5,986 will be oxygen equipped, 1,140 for intensive care and 30 dialysis. Six hurndred beds of the total beds will be dedicated to paediatric care with 150 of them paediatric ICU.
Our idea is to divert patients to jumbo centres first and then to hospitals. One new jumbo centre is ready and others will be too by this month.
Over 70 per cent beds will have oxygen supply and close to 10 per cent will have ICU. We will set up paediatric wards in each jumbo centre and make arrangements for parents to stay with infected children. If a parent is Covid negative, we will provide them PPE kits and allow them to stay at safe distance.
Any projection on Covid cases for third wave ?
We have studied all the models of Covid for the third wave and discussed with the task force members too. Considering all factors, the numbers of cases during the peak in the third wave may be between (what was recorded in) the first and second wave (peaks).
It may not dip as low as the first wave but it may not also go as high as the second when daily cases had crossed 11,000. Some experts have said the third wave will hit by July. I believe it would come around September.
When can we expect further reopening of activities in Mumbai? Is there a criteria set by the BMC? What about reopening local trains to the public?
Mumbai has a typical problem. If we open up because our positivity rate is low, people from other corporations in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region may start traveling to and fro the city. That can increase chances of cross-infection… We will open in a phasewise manner if the entire MMR region is on the same page.
The Delta plus variant has also played a spoilsport for us. Konkan region has a lot of cases and movement between Konkan and MMR is high.
After the ‘bogus’ vaccination drives were unearthed, what are new changes in guidelines for vaccinations in private societies?
It is now mandatory (for private residential societies) to share a memorandum of understanding (MoU) or joint letter (from the private hospital and the society) at least three days before the camp. These documents should be displayed on the notice boards of the housing societies. Also, a resolution should be passed in the committee meeting of the society concerned regarding such a drive. We have provided email addresses and contact numbers on which these details can be shared.
Our plan, meanwhile, is to move for aggressive vaccination. If people get confidence that they can get vaccinated at government centres then such incidents can be prevented.
A contractual staffer of the NESCO Covid Jumbo Centre is also allegedly involved in the vaccination scam and had apparantly provided login ids and passwords. Are we going to see any policy changes to ensure such things do not happen again?
We have instructed all staff to change passwords of their respective login ids while closing down the system daily. We have also directed for close supervision. If vials are used then it has to be ensured that they are disposed of properly.
When is Mumbai starting genome sequencing?
A machine is on its way from the US. By next week we will begin genome sequencing.
The machine can conduct 100-150 tests but we will not carry out as many tests. Our focus will be to collect specific samples of severely ill patients and those who have prolonged illness. The idea is to have real-time tracking to decide the policy of home isolation, and changes in treatment protocol. We may do 200-300 tests in a week.
Mumbai is still lagging when it come to pushing Covid vaccination in slums, for the homeless and bedridden citizens. A third wave is impending and antibody levels are diminishing in the slum population as per a sero survey.
We have opened more than 300 vaccination centres across Mumbai. We have 227 corporators, who have a centre in each of their wards. Apart from these, 50 per cent walk-ins have been allowed… We have tied up with NGOs in Dharavi to raise awareness among slum residents too. We will also plan special camps in slums to facilitate easy registration and motivate residents to get immunised. I have suggested one NGO to procure vaccines while we will provide them a centre to run.
In Mumbai, private hospitals managed to buy 23 lakh vaccine doses in May while the BMC scrambled with very limited stock for day-to-day vaccination. Is there a dialogue between the BMC with the state or central government to ensure equitable distribution?
The allotment is based on performance. Initially we had planned to go slowly, but subsequently we decided to vaccinate aggressively. In case you go aggressively. then definitely you have to halt for a day or two. As we are going aggressively, we may get more vaccines. Private procurement is as per central government norms.
How much of the population of Mumbai is fully vaccinated?
In Mumbai, more than 54 lakh people have received the first dose and 10.74 lakh have received both the doses. Our target population (people above 18 years) is 90 lakh, of them 33 lakh are remaining to be vaccinated and we can do it in 30-40 days.
So far, how much has the BMC spent on tackling the pandemic?
More than Rs 2,000 crore has been spent so far. Maximum expenditure has been on medicines, creation of medical infrastructure and development of jumbo centres.
How are you planning to ensure non-Covid treatment functions smoothly?
We are focusing on jumbo centres for Covid-19 admissions. Some nominal beds will also be kept for Covid patients in hospitals. So, all non-Covid treatments including minor or major surgeries, can start in all health facilities.
What are the plans for door-to-door vaccination?
We will start by collecting data and creating some facilities. If a person is bedridden for more than six months then a doctor’s certificate will be asked for.
What was the most challenging part for you during this pandemic?
Every day is challenging. Take the example of mucormycosis. It was not in anyone’s mind, not even the task force. Suddenly there were spurt in cases. Then there was a shortage of Amphotericin B injections but somehow we got stock and started distributing. Shortage of vaccines is also another challenge. Everyday there is something and I can’t sit back and say my system is running smoothly. You never know what will happen tomorrow.
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