Nearly 35 per cent of the 25 lakh-odd population in Pimpri-Chinchwad ― almost 8.5 lakh residents ― have developed Covid-19 antibodies, according to a sero-survey conducted by the Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) and Dr D Y Patil Medical College and Research Institute.
The presence of antibodies indicates the individual has been exposed to the virus in the past.
Giving details about the sero-survey at PCMC headquarters on Monday, Dr Subhash Salunkhe, technical advisor on Covid-19, Maharashtra government, said the survey was conducted among 5,000 people and in 200 clusters.
“The survey was conducted in slums, in gaonthan areas and in housing societies. It was conducted in the form of question and answers, and by taking blood samples,” Dr Salunkhe said, adding that it was a random sampling survey.
The survey was conducted between October 7 and 17.
Dr Salukhe said this was a more comprehensive survey compared to the one carried out in areas under Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC). “In PMC areas, the survey was restricted to containment zones. The methodology was different… they chose only affected clusters. But in Pimpri-Chinchwad, the survey was conducted across the industrial city. This was a more comprehensive survey than the one conducted in PMC areas,” he said.
Dr Salunkhe said the serological survey tested the blood samples for a specific class of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. “These are immunoglobulin G or IgG. They appear within two weeks of the infection. These antibodies also appear in those who were pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic and had not been tested for Covid-19,” he said.
“The timing of the sero-survey was perfect. There was no delay. This was done to help the PCMC plan better strategise to tackle future rise in cases,” said Dr Salunkhe.
He said the state government has asked PCMC to set up a death audit committee in every Covid hospital. The industrial city has reported 1,529 Covid-related deaths. “The committee should submit its report on a weekly basis. All efforts should be made to bring down the case fatality rate,” said Dr Salunkhe.
Municipal Commissioner Shravan Hardikar said sero-positivity was highest, at 35.5 per cent, in the age group of 51 to 65 years. “The sero-survey was conducted among local residents above 12 years of age. Antibody prevalence was 34.9 per cent in the age group of 12-18 years, 29 per cent in the age group of 19-30, 31 per cent in the age group of 31-50 years and 28 per cent in those above 66 years of age,” he said.
Hardikar said in some areas, the antibody prevalence was found to be very low. “But that is not an accurate conclusion because the samples collected were just around 25. The sero- survey conducted across the city presents an accurate conclusion,” he said.
The PCMC chief said the sero-survey will help PCMC plan its future strategies. “… Now, we have a fair idea whether to start the schools or not. We will discuss the matter with the state government and initiate future action,” he said.
Hardikar said since the number of cases has been falling for a month, the civic body has decided to throw open YCM Hospital for non-Covid patients. “From Tuesday, we will start admitting non-Covid patients. YCMH will reserve 50 per cent beds for Covid patients and 50 per cent for non-Covid patients,” he said.
PCMC House leader Namdev Dhake added, “Corporators have been getting complaints from poor patients that treatment in private hospitals is unaffordable. Now, since there are fewer Covid-19 patients at YCM Hospital, we have decided to start admitting non-Covid patients.”
Dr Salunkhe, however, warned about the possibility of a second wave of Covid-19 infections. “We can’t relax even if the number of cases drops below 10. Winter is coming and the possibility of cases rising again can’t be denied,” he said, adding that the PCMC “can’t lower its guard”.
Hardikar said though the civic body has closed down private Covid care centres, it will keep the jumbo facility and Auto Cluster facility open. “Anyone who has symptoms should go to these centres. The treatment is free. These centres will provide primary treatment,” he said.
He said Covid-19 cases were expected to rise after Navratri. “But that didn’t happen… probably because Navratri is not celebrated on a wide scale here, compared to Gujarat or West Bengal. Now our worry is Diwali. We want local residents to remain on guard, maintain social distancing, wear masks and wash their hands repeatedly. Diwali period will be very crucial to see whether the second wave arrives or not,” he said.