Mumbai fared better than global cities against Covid-19: ExpertsUpdated: May 07, 2020 00:06 IST
For a city with a population of 12.44 million, 42% of which resides in informal settlements spread over just 8% of its landmass and the average density is 31,700 people per square kilometre (making it the second-most crowded city in the world), Mumbai has fared better than cities across the globe while fighting the Covid-19 pandemic, experts opine.
A recent analysis by a think-tank, Observer Research Foundation (ORF), of the top 10 most-affected metropolitan areas (including New York, London, Madrid, Lombardy, and Ile De France) in the world reveals that urban agglomeration accounts for 32.19% of the total cases recorded in all the countries and 29.53% of the total deaths, on an average.
However, as of Wednesday morning, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), which includes the city and its neighbouring areas, accounted for 25% of the total cases in India and 26% of the deaths in the country. The numbers were lower than New York (33.57% of total cases in the US), Lombardy (36.51% of cases in Italy), Flanders (58.67% of Belgium cases) and Hubei (82% of the total cases in China).
Dhaval Desai, vice-president of ORF, Mumbai, who also authored the report, said Mumbai has done well when compared to medically-endowed cities across the globe. “The pandemic has exposed the weakness of even global cities like London and New York that boast of highly-advanced medical and public health systems,” Desai said. “With large informal settlements spread across the city, Mumbai has done largely well,” he added.
When compared with Asian counterparts, Singapore, which was lauded for its response initially, has recorded 19,410 cases with 18 deaths. The city-state had not entered double-digits even till mid-March. Tokyo has recorded 4,654 cases, of which 1,589 were already discharged and 150 have died. South Korea’s Seoul has recorded 637 cases with two deaths.
According to Pankaj Joshi, executive director at the city-based Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), the city performed well owing to strategies like active primary health-care centres, pre-empting the lockdown, substantial response from the NGOs working on the field and early sealing of containment zones.
“Many global cities reacted late, which was not the case in Mumbai. The lockdown was in place even before the country-wide lockdown was imposed,” Joshi said.
A senior official from the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said, “Decentralisation of power to local wards, aggressive contact tracing and testing, and getting quarantine facilities ready in time have helped the civic body in controlling the spread to a large extent.”
However, experts feel the city also needs to strategise its long-term response to the pandemic, which also looks at mitigating scenarios like migrants crowding at Bandra station or social distancing norms being flouted with liquor shops being opened on Tuesday.
Dr Anant Bhan, researcher, global health, bioethics and health policy, said that Mumbai’s response has to be more nuanced and well-resourced in the coming days with aggressive testing. “The civic body has to strategise a medium to long-term response which means investing more in resources and public health systems,” he said.
“Delhi fared slightly better than Mumbai with the concept of mohalla clinics and more investment by the state government in the health sector. Although one cannot deny the neglect in the Nizamuddin event,” Bhan added.
While major European cities planning and re-thinking responses to a post-Covid world, Mumbai is yet to draft a comprehensive strategy in that sector. Cities like Paris, London and Milan have started rebuilding streets to make them more pedestrian and bicycle-friendly.
“We will have to do some major re-thinking in terms of urban planning, especially for slum rehabilitation in the city. Even mobility will need to be thought through before the city starts opening again,” Joshi said.