First wave of Covid-19 claimed nearly 11,000 lives in Mumbai, May 2020 was most lethal

While the number of Covid-19 cases saw a huge spurt during the second wave in Mumbai, the city’s death toll was around 5,000, comparatively lower than the first wave, according to the civic body data
The first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic claimed nearly 11,000 lives in Mumbai, with May 2020 recording the highest number of deaths (HT PHOTO)
The first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic claimed nearly 11,000 lives in Mumbai, with May 2020 recording the highest number of deaths (HT PHOTO)
Published on Oct 31, 2021 12:55 AM IST
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ByJyoti Shelar, Mumbai

The first wave of the pandemic claimed nearly 11,000 lives in Mumbai, with May 2020 recording the highest number of deaths. While the number of Covid-19 cases saw a huge spurt during the second wave, the city’s death toll was around 5,000, comparatively lower than the first wave, according to the civic body data.

The public health authorities hustled to create new medical infrastructure for a sudden inflow of patients during the first wave. On the other hand, the medical fraternity grappled to treat the infection caused by the new, unknown virus. “There were huge mortalities that time,” said infectious disease expert Dr Om Srivastava, who is also a member of the Covid-19 task force of Maharashtra. “We were looking at the evidence coming from other countries and trying everything possible to not let patients slip to the critical state and revert the ones who were critical. But when the first wave hit us, we knew nothing about Covid-19,” he said.

According to Srivastava, slowly, doctors learnt that none of the drugs was making any difference and found that timely oxygen therapy and good intensive care unit (ICU) support played a key role in reducing mortality. “We became more and more clear that none of the agents and interventions showed any survival advantage barring oxygen support, ICU care and steroids,” he said adding that by the time the second wave hit Mumbai, the treatment strategies were slightly more evolved.

Mumbai’s first case of Covid-19 was recorded on March 11, 2020. From 119 cases and 14 deaths that month, the number of cases jumped to 5,904 in April and the death toll climbed to 431. In the following month of May, the number of cases went up to 33,189 and the death toll touched 2,414, the highest during the first wave. Experts consider the period between March to November 2020 as the first wave. Thereafter, the city experienced some respite. Once again, cases began to climb again from the end of February 2021, which is considered as the onset of the second wave.

“By the time the second wave hit, the experience of the medical fraternity was much better,” said physician Dr Jalil Parkar from Lilavati Hospital. The use of repurposed drugs like remdesivir and tocilizumab had started during the end of the first wave. Most importantly, there was awareness among people about the symptoms and the need for timely oxygen support. “The starting of the vaccination drive in January 2021 has also played a crucial role in reducing the mortalities in the second wave,” said Parkar.

Mumbai’s Covid-19 mortality trend is the opposite of the scenario observed in overall Maharashtra which recorded more fatalities during the second wave. “Mumbai developed a protocol which instilled hope among patients and the city’s streamlined system of allocating beds through war rooms, creating massive jumbo facilities with ample oxygen storage helped during the second wave when the number of cases was much higher,” said additional municipal commissioner Suresh Kakani. “Other parts of the state perhaps implemented different strategies that were not so effective,” he said.

Mumbai boasts of much better healthcare infrastructure compared to other parts of Maharashtra. Health activists said that as the virus spread rapidly into the rural parts of the state, patients suffered due to the lack of better health facilities as well as difficulty in accessing them.

As the state anticipates a post-Diwali spurt and a third wave anytime soon, will the learnings from the first and second waves help us tide over smoothly? “All our strategies are better evolved now, but whether that’s enough for a third, fourth or fifth wave is something we don’t know,” said task force member Srivastava.

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