Its 7.5 lakh powerlooms process nearly a third of the cloth the country wears. Its warehouses spread over seven crore square feet, the largest in Asia, pack and deliver everything Indians order on e-commerce websites.
Located 50 km away on the northern fringe of Mumbai, Bhiwandi particularly has suffered badly from Covid-19, witnessing a 1,186 per cent spike in cases since the lockdown was eased in early June. While authorities have blamed the spike on unwillingness of locals to follow lockdown rules, there is anger among locals that the government left them to fend for themselves. In early June, Bhiwandi had 176 cases with only six deaths. The number today stands at 2,265 cases with 121 deaths.
For the town’s 8.5 lakh residents, till June 20 their only access to government healthcare was the state-run Indira Gandhi Memorial hospital that offered 110 beds, of which only 37 were supported by oxygen, including eight ICU. There was only one quarantine centre of 300 beds that the city shared with patients from the Kalyan-Dombivali municipal corporation and a fever clinic. In spite of the squalid conditions that many residents live in, the corporation till June 20 was testing only 150 patients daily.
According to municipal authorities, the reason for the sudden spike was people avoiding testing as they feared once they test positive, all family members will be lodged in different quarantine centres. “They also felt they will be boycotted by the community, so they started treating themselves at home,” a civic official said.
However, a 44-year-old Bhiwandi resident, whose father was discharged from NSCI Worli quarantine centre on Thursday, said, “Recently, two separate videos of IGM hospital had gone viral on social media; one in which several used PPE kits could be seen lying inside the hospital premises and the second that showed a person supplying oxygen to his mother outside the hospital.”
“The videos have created panic and mistrust against the hospital due to which people are treating themselves at home,” said Samajwadi Party worker Zuber Shaikh.
A 19-year-old boy, whose 50-year-old father was admitted in IGM hospital, said, “After my father suffered from breathlessness, I took him to IGM hospital. They admitted him but took his swab only after a week. They didn’t give us any report and discharged him a few days later. He is still suffering from breathlessness, he should have been treated properly.”
IGM hospital superintendent Anil Thorat did not comment saying he was busy as Health Minister Rajesh Tope was in Bhiwandi.
Locals said they had earlier made several complaints to the previous municipal commissioner that none of the private hospitals were admitting patients without Covid test results but to no avail. “However, after we complained to the new municipal commissioner, he has sent out notices to these private hospitals,” said Tanzeem Ansari.
In the first week of June, NGOs stepped in to provide oxygen facility and a mosque was converted into a Covid care centre.
After the situation went out of hand, the government appointed Dr Pankaj Aashiya, who had successfully managed to flatten the infection curve in Malegaon, as the commissioner of Bhiwandi-Nizampur Municipal Corporation.
Municipal authorities said since Aashiya took over, oxygen beds have increased to 100 and two new Covid care centres set up. Oxygen-supported beds will be increased further and three more Covid care centres will be started.
Officials said contact tracing per Covid-19 patient has increased from 1.5 to 14 while the doubling rate in the satellite city is 10.2 days. “Due to the sudden spread, we have enforced complete lockdown at the hotspots… 35 per cent of the region is under complete lockdown,” Aashiya said.
In a bid to improve the situation in Bhiwandi-Nizampur city, municipal authorities have started antigen testing from Wednesday while MLA Rais Shaikh is starting one rupee clinic from Saturday.
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