THE DAY after the Uddhav Thackeray-led government removed Praveen Pardeshi from the civic commissioner’s post, his successor, Iqbal Singh Chahal, indicated that he was reviewing the city’s Covid-19 testing protocol and that it would be changed.
Chahal has also ordered a relook at demarcation of containment zones.
At the epicentre of the pandemic in India, Mumbai, which has so far reported 12,864 cases and 489 deaths, had differed from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines and decided to only selectively test asymptomatic high-risk people who may have been exposed to the coronavirus after coming into contact with a positive patient. The ICMR’s guidelines advocate testing all asymptomatic high-risk contacts, such as family members and caregivers, between the fifth and 14th day of the suspected exposure.
While he did not spell out the new testing protocol, Chahal told civic officials that once announced, it won’t change. The civic body had earlier invited some criticism over flip-flops regarding testing protocol as well as procedures for reporting deaths caused by Covid-19.
On April 12, it had issued guidelines for stopping tests for asymptomatic people altogether, except for pregnant women, senior citizens, cancer and kidney patients. But within a week, it issued another set of guidelines to include more categories, stating that it would test only “symptomatic people (suffering from cough, cold, fever, breathlessness), pregnant women, dialysis patients, patients on chemotherapy, healthcare workers, senior citizens, symptomatic high-risk contacts, and some asymptomatic high-risk contacts.” The civic body had then argued that the testing protocol was modified for better utilisation of manpower and resources.
Mumbai’s new Additional Municipal Commissioner Ashwini Bhide said the civic body’s focus will be on a more effective management inside containment zones. “A detailed review was taken with all assistant commissioners and zonal deputy municipal commissioners for increasing high-risk contact tracing, shifting all such contacts from slums to institutional quarantine, scaling up quarantine facilities, rationalising containment zones, and ensuring 100 per cent house-to-house surveillance within containment zones,” she said.
In the middle of the pandemic, Thackeray, on Friday evening, surprised many by transferring Pardeshi as the Additional Chief Secretary of the Urban Development Department-I, a post previously held by Chahal.
The move came a day after a central team, under Joint Secretary (Ministry of Health and Family Welfare) Lav Agarwal had reprimanded the state government for the rising number of active cases inside the containment zones in Mumbai and the non-adherence to the Centre’s directives regarding contact tracing and door-to-door surveillance.