‘Covid-19 fatigue’ hits Mumbaiites, say experts; active coronavirus cases witness surge in Mumbai
The number of active Covid-19 cases in Mumbai has risen by around 25% in the past fortnight to 22,978 on Saturday from 18,301 on August 22, with medical experts and officials from Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) public health department attributing this increase to the surge in the city’s daily case count. Active cases are calculated by deducting number of discharged patients and number of fatalities from the total number of Covid-19 cases in the city.
Experts cautioned that this could be a cause for concern as the city’s infections graph, which had plateaued, has begun to rise again. The increase in the number of daily cases, according to the experts, is owing to easing of lockdown restrictions, the recently concluded Ganeshotsav and more people stepping out of their homes due to “Covid fatigue”.
“This is not a good sign for Mumbai, especially since the city has opened up considerably. If this trend continues, Covid-19 cases could increase at an alarming rate again, and Mumbai may have to tighten lockdown curbs yet again,” said Dr Shashank Joshi, a member of the state government’s Covid-19 task force formed in April to reduce fatality in the state, adding that one of the primary reasons for the sudden surge in cases is “lack of Covid-related hygiene owing to Covid fatigue among citizens”.
Madhav Sathe, retired professor of microbiology at BYL Nair Hospital, said, “There is definitely a behavioural change, as there is too much pressure about these things for a long time now. We cannot say this is a prominent cause for increase in Covid cases, as there are a lot of other factors. But people are getting restless now, and are stepping out more.”
Dr Pradya Ajinkya, Mumbai-based psychological counsellor, said, “With the decline in businesses, and the uncertainty people have faced and are likely to face over the next few months, there is an elevated stress. People are looking for a way to return to normal. There can be a stress-based response to fear of quarantining, losing loved ones, and hence some psychological fatigue is there.”
Rasika Karkare, a Mumbai-based clinical psychologist, pointed out that people may not sanitise as often anymore, or change clothes right away upon returning home. “Collectively we are facing a pandemic that we don’t have prior experience of. Initially everyone took it seriously. Now for five to six months we are at home in the same environment. There is no boundary between personal and professional due to work from home. Fatigue is natural. People are looking for a reason to celebrate, or meet relatives, and many may have ventured out more during Ganeshotsav too.”
Joshi said people also do not trust the civic body, and to avoid moving to an institutional quarantine facility, they do not get tested till four to five days after developing symptoms. “In such cases, they interact with a lot more people in the meantime, and the infection rapidly spreads,” he said.
The number of cumulative active cases in Mumbai as of Friday was the highest recorded in over a month.
The last time Mumbai had higher active Covid-19 cases was on July 26, when the number was 22,768. Since then, the cumulative active cases steadily declined, until Friday.
In the past week, the daily count of Covid-19 cases has also risen, especially in the past four days. On Saturday, Mumbai recorded 1,737 cases and 33 deaths, taking the total number of cases in the city to 153,712, and the toll to 7,832. The city had recorded 1,929 cases on Friday, 1,526 on Thursday, 1,622 on Wednesday and 1,142 on Tuesday.
On the contrary, Mumbai had recorded as low as 705 Covid-19 cases in August (on August 3), which also witnessed a number of days when the daily infections were below 1,000.
“People have begun to believe Covid has gone. It is still very much there. Mumbai is still not out of the woods. Covid-appropriate behaviour of wearing a mask, sanitising, and social distancing is mandatory,” said Joshi. “BMC needs to do three things on a war footing. We cannot become complacent now. The civic body needs to realise they have to close the tap, even as they talk about high recovery. Mumbai still has a high fatality rate. Aggressive and increased RT-PCR testing, early diagnosis and door-to-door survey and early treatment needs to continue.”
Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner and in-charge of the civic health department, said, the increase in number of active Covid-19 cases is a result of the recent lifting of curbs, Ganeshotsav and the shift of the spread from slums to high rises.
“As more affluent people are now turning positive, the rate of self-admission in private hospitals has increased. These residents are opting to prolong their treatment in a private hospital,” said Kakani.