Proactive screening helped curb Dharavi’s coronavirus spread, says BMC
With the WHO lauding the efforts taken to contain the spread of the Covid-19 in Mumbai’s Dharavi, one of the world’s largest slums, the local civic body said proactive screening with the assistance of private doctors and community support helped it in the fight against the disease.
World Health Organisation (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, had said during a virtual press conference in Geneva on Friday that there were many examples from around the world that have shown that even if the outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control.
“And some of these examples are Italy, Spain and South Korea, and even in Dharavi - a densely packed area in the megacity of Mumbai,” he had said.
The Asia’s largest slum, which was once declared a Covid-19 hotspot, has managed to flatten the curve of the viral spread.
Talking to PTI on Saturday, Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Commissioner of the G North ward of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) said the civic body had to change its traditional approach of waiting for patients, contact tracing, isolation and home quarantine to begin proactive screening instead.
“Proactive screening helped in early detection, timely treatment and recovery,” he said.
At least six to seven lakh people have been screened in Dharavi, while 14,000 persons were tested and 13,000 were placed in institutional quarantine with medical facilities and community kitchen for free,” the senior official said.
The efforts taken by the civic authorities and the local participation is evident from the doubling rate of the virus in Dharavi, which is spread over 2.5 sq km and has a population of 2,27,136 per sq km.
According to the official data, while in April, the doubling rate was 18 days, it gradually improved to 43 days in May and slowed down to 108 and 430 days in June and July respectively.
As many as 2,359 Covid-19 cases have been recorded in Dharavi so far, of which 1,952 patients have recovered from the deadly infection, while there are only 166 active cases at present.
However, achieving this monumental feat was not easy for the local authorities, who had to overcome their fair share of challenges.
“At least 80 per cent of Dharavi’s population depends on 450 community toilets and the administration had to sanitise and disinfect these toilets several times a day,” Dighavkar said.
Social distancing was next to impossible in Dharavi, where families of eight to 10 people live in 10x10 hutments and residents have to walk along narrow lanes lined with crowded tenements on either side, he said.
Apart from the congested slum pockets, Dharavi, is also home to several small-scale leather, pottery and textile manufacturing units.
The area has 5,000 GST-registered enterprises, 15,000 single-room factories and is a hub of international exports with an annual turnover of 1 billion USD.
“Our approach to tackle the virus was focused on four Ts - tracing, tracking, testing and treating,” he said.
Doctors and private clinics, as part of proactive screening and fever camps, covered as many as 47,500 houses, while 14,970 people were screened in mobile vans, the official said.
Apart from this, special care was taken for the elderly residents and 8,246 senior citizens were surveyed, he said.
Manpower was a major issue for organising fever camps and proactive screening in high-risk zones, Dighavkar said.
“We mobilised all private practitioners. At least 24 private doctors came forward and the civic body provided them with PPE kits, thermal scanners, pulse oxymetres, masks, gloves, and started door-to-door screening in high risk zones and all suspects were identified,” he said.
Later, all medical practitioners were asked to open their clinics and alert the civic body about suspected patients, he said, adding that all private hospitals were also acquired for treatment.
The civic body also had to ramp up institutional quarantine facilities and used schools, marriage halls and sports complexes to house suspected patients, he said.
“Under the guidance of municipal commissioner I S Chahal, a 200-bed hospital was set up in record 14 days with oxygen supply,” Dighavkar said.
There was a strict enforcement of lockdown in the containment zones, during which only critical patients were moved out of the area to other hospitals and 90 per cent were treated in Dharavi itself, he added.
Community participation was crucial to contain the spread of coronavirus in Dharavi and local community leaders were appointed as “Covid yoddhas” (warriors) to address the concerns, the senior official said.
According to him, grocery kits and food packets were distributed in containment zones to prevent the movement of people and this helped in a big way.
Taking to Twitter, the civic body thanked the WHO for acknowledging ‘Mission Dharavi.
“We partnered with citizens to chase the virus from one of the most populous blocks of the city. With your guidelines and community efforts, we will beat Covid-19 one block at a time by tracing, tracking, testing and treating,” the BMC tweeted.