Kolkata slum emerges as a Covid-19 hotspot with six new coronavirus cases
After Dharavi in Mumbai, a densely populated slum at Belgachhia in north Kolkata is rapidly turning into a Covid-19 hotspot, with at least six people reportedly testing positive for the coronavirus infection.
The administration ‘sealed’ the slum on Tuesday – putting up barricades at all entry points – besides launching a door-to-door survey on Thursday.
Local Trinamool Congress (TMC) corporator and Rajya Sabha MP Santanu Sen, who himself is a doctor and leading the administration’s operations from the front, said, “I cannot give numbers of people testing positive but there have been a few cases and the administration is taking all precautionary measures.”
The slum has a population of about 50,000 and there are over 5,000 households, Sen said.
“Since there have been a few cases, all our focus is on this slum now, as it is very densely populated and houses have no gaps between them. Even sleeping space is shared rotationally depending on one’s work hours. Now, with the lockdown, the entire population is staying in the slum, causing further space crunch. We are reaching out to every single household,” Tarun Saha, chairman of KMC’s borough no 1 said.
Dharavi in Mumbai is home to nearly 15 lakh people who live in shanties. As many as 71 cases of Covid-19 positive have been reported from Dharavi till Thursday morning.
At Belgachhia slum, according to a senior health department official of the state government, “Six persons, including two from a family, have tested positive for Covid-19. Other members of these families have been sent to government quarantine centres at Rajarhat and to the Haj House.”
On Thursday, Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) workers and staff from the health department launched a door-to-door survey to inquire about symptoms of influenza and severe acute respiratory infection. They were all wearing personal protective equipment or PPE.
“A meeting was held exclusively to handle the Belgachhia situation on Wednesday and it has been decided that all lanes and by-lanes will be sanitized on a daily basis. Fifteen teams have been formed, with each team comprising of two health workers and representatives of the corporator. They were given a briefing today, following which door-to-door survey started,” Sen said.
A school teacher living in the area, who did not want to be named, said that panic and rumours are spreading in the slum faster than the virus. “It is difficult to maintain social distancing here. Think of 10 people living in an 8 ft x 8 ft room. Usually, many people sleep on the streets at night due to shortage of space at home. Besides, there is illiteracy that is helping rumours to spread in the area and panic as well,” the schoolteacher said.
Several non-government organizations have already launched the work of providing relief to local residents. They include the local Jamaa Masjid, the Islamic Library, local clubs and Paschim Banga Vigyan Mancha, the science wing of the Communist Party of India (Marxist).
“We are not allowed to move into the slum. So, we are gathering at its entrance with hand sanitizers and so that our workers can prepare some food. People from the slum are coming to the entry point and collecting those,” Anindya Chowdhury of Paschim Banga Vigyan Mancha said.
Kolkata’s deputy Mayor Atin Ghosh said that a similar door-to-door survey would be carried out in all slum areas of the city.
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