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Mumbai: Family functions, vacations new Covid-19 super spreaders

Amid the lifting of curbs, family gatherings for weddings and birthday parties, holidays at nearby tourist destinations and visiting families and friends outside Mumbai have now become Covid-19 super-spreader events, according to doctors
By Rupsa Chakraborty, Mumbai
PUBLISHED ON FEB 15, 2021 12:06 AM IST
BMC medical staff conducts the rapid antigen test of passenger arriving from Karnavati Express at Mumbai Central. (Anshuman Poyrekar/HT Photo)

Amid the lifting of curbs, family gatherings for weddings and birthday parties, holidays at nearby tourist destinations and visiting families and friends outside Mumbai have now become Covid-19 super-spreader events, according to doctors.

With the starting of the interstate trains and airport flights capacity increased to 85%, health care experts said a large number of Mumbaiites have started heading out for mini vacations. “People are also attending family dos. Also, the number of people who can be invited for wedding receptions has increased from the initial 50 to 200. People are tired of being indoors for almost a year and have dropped their guard. This is leading to violation of social distancing norms, not wearing masks during family. If people had been more careful, the number of new cases could have been reduced by half,” said Dr Deepak Baid, president of Association of Medical Consultants (AMC).

A case in point is a 33-year-old Borivli resident, who visited her sister in Pune in early January, after 10 months. While she largely stayed indoors, her sister employed at a non-government organisation had to step out for work thrice a week. All was well till January 12, when she returned home. She developed fever with sore throat. Barring her senior citizen parents, three from the family, including her, tested positive for Sars-CoV-2 and spent eight days at Bhagwati hospital, Borivli.

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“Throughout the pandemic, I have been extremely careful as my parents suffer from diabetes. After staying indoors for almost 10 months, I visited my sister for a vacation. Despite taking all precautionary measures, we still don’t know how we got infected,” she said.

With the city’s Covid-19 pandemic curve flattening, the state started to ease restrictions that were imposed to break the chain and control the spread and transmission of the virus. “Sars-Cov-2—the virus that causes Covid-19 – spreads through air droplets. The virus can remain on surfaces for hours. While travelling, if people don’t wear masks and continue touching their faces frequently, the chances of getting infected are high. While travelling, it is not possible to sanitise all door handles and railings, so individual precautions are compulsory,” said Dr Vikrant Shah, infection specialist, Zen hospital.

“Currently, we are observing that a majority of new cases are of those with recent travel history or those who attended a family gathering. We are getting more group infections among family members,” said Bhagyashree Kapse, ward officer of the R/C ward that covers Borivli.

In yet another incident, in October, 2020, 14 people got infected when they participated in a birthday party at Andheri. As per a family member, a senior citizen who had a mild fever was present throughout the celebration. The person who was a carrier of the pathogen of Covid-19 infected 14 of them. One of the infected couples spread the virus to their parents when they went back home.

“A total of 16 people were infected and six had to get hospitalised. One of them was kept on oxygen support due to breathing difficulty. The rest were home quarantined,” said a family member, requesting anonymity.

Over the past seven days, Covid-19 cases in the city grew at a rate of 0.13%. However, nine wards in the city, covering Mulund, Vikhroli, Bandra, Khar, among others, have recorded higher growth rates of 0.14% to 0.21%. As per ward officers, new Covid-19 cases are mainly from non-slum areas. In Mumbai, 1,880 buildings are currently sealed and K/W ward that covers Andheri west tops the list.

Medical officer health, Dr Gulnar Khan from the ward said, “Over 40% of the new patients have a history of vacation or family functions.”

“Household transmission during parties can be a major source of infection. One doesn’t know if an invited guest is infected or not. So the infected particles may remain floating in the atmosphere of the house which can infect others if they don’t wear masks,” said Dr Lancelot Pinto, an epidemiologist.

Dr Anita Mathew, infectious disease specialist, Fortis Hospital, Mulund, said, “We need to understand that to control the pandemic, we need a vaccine, but we can protect ourselves with basic measures such as wearing a mask, washing hands and maintaining the required physical distance at work and family functions.”

Health experts seek stringent rules for defaulters. “During the start of the lockdown, the civic body was issuing fines to people who weren’t wearing masks. But now, no such action is being taken against defaulters. Until all get vaccinated, it is essential for the civic body to remain stringent and issues guidelines for travellers and family functions,” said Dr Abhijit More, a health activist.

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