The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has placed an order for 80,000 pieces of personal protective equipment (PPE), Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi has said.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Pardeshi said: “We have 15,000 PPEs. They are not enough. We have given an order for 80,000 more and, fortunately, private planes from big corporations have lined up to pick them up and bring them here. I don’t have a transport problem. Wherever there is a supply, they are willing to pick them up.”
Lack of PPE is one of the biggest concerns facing healthcare workers fighting COVID-19 pandemic across the country. PPEs include items such as gowns, respirators, face masks, safety-footwear harnesses, eye protection gear and gloves.
In two weeks, BMC will also begin conducting ‘Rapid Antibody Test’ for its 5,000 health workers, which will ascertain the presence of antibodies that can fight the virus. The test checks for the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV2) by ascertaining whether the person has developed antibodies against it. The test takes less than 30 minutes.
Pardeshi said BMC will first test its health staff — nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers and BEST bus drivers ferrying essential services staff among others. The test will screen plasma for antibodies that the body develops against the virus.
Depending upon the results, BMC will then divide the health workers into two categories – one who have tested positive for the antibody will work at four COVID-19 hospitals and others will be appointed as office staff for administrative and data crunching work in epidemiology cell among others. Pardeshi said, “First, I want to test our staff. These are the things we have to do to safeguard our people. Ashotoush Salil (joint municipal commissioner), Kiran Majumdar Shaw (chairperson and managing director of Biocon Limited), Dr Sriram Nene and a Delhi-based group, all have come together with us and we are strategising to procure rapid antibody detection test. Though these tests cannot affirm if a person is COVID-19 positive or not, what they do affirm is the presence of antibodies, which helps us understand who will be able to face the viral attack.”
Mumbai has witnessed 642 COVID-19 cases (including 40 deaths), with 116 being reported in the last 24 hours – the highest jump in cases for the city. Pardeshi attributed the spike to BMC’s “aggressive approach to tracing rather than reacting”.
The civic body has carried out 890 tests per million. “We have conducted 10,500 tests in Mumbai so far and you can compare this with the rest of Maharashtra. Forget Maharashtra, compare this with other states like Kerala, which has the second highest number of cases or even Delhi, which has conducted 3,200 tests,” he said. Pardeshi highlighted that the current challenge in terms of quarantine is logistics and hospitality at the isolation centres. In addition to its hospitals, BMC has requisitioned 10,000 vacant rooms in lodges, halls and others and turned them into quarantine centres, mostly for people who are from densely populated areas and would find it impossible to follow the 14-days compulsory home quarantine in their residences. In addition, to motivate and support frontline workers and other BMC staff, Pardeshi said, he would give a daily allowance of Rs 300 to the employees. For ward boys, the civic body is giving a package of grain coupons worth Rs 1,500. Pardeshi stressed on BMC’s preparation in controlling the spread of the virus. After the first case was reported from Dharavi, BMC began health camps and fever clinics in various parts of the city. “People with cough and cold symptoms should visit fever clinics. There are 10 in the city slums and teams there decide whether a person needs testing. They can also go to COVID-19 hospitals. Even cities like London have just one COVID-19 hospital, all other hospitals don’t admit people just like that,” he added.
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