December 25, 2020. Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, did not record any Covid-19 case that day. It was a first since March 31. The downward trend was continuing for some time with even the World Health Organization (WHO) praising the way the pandemic was combated in the slum cluster with 650,000 residents.
Cut to March 10, 2021. In the first 10 days of the month, the area has already seen 104 fresh infections. The uptick is evident from the 157 cases recorded in February, compared with 119 in December and 117 in January.
Why it matters: A spike in cases in the congested slum area spreading over 5 square kilometres could quickly go out of control at a time when Maharashtra is fighting a resurgence of cases. Hence, Dharavi is a key component in Mumbai’s battle against the pandemic. The place has so far recorded 4,085 cases and over 300 deaths due to the coronavirus disease.
What now: The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), the civic body in Mumbai, has taken a series of steps. The state government is monitoring the situation closely. Officials have hinted at imposing some strict measures, if needed, but also hope steps taken will help mitigate the crisis.
· Aggressive door-to-door screening in the narrow alleys of Dharavi is on with an aim to test residents and track down those with the infectious disease.
· Authorities are making lists of high- and low-risk contacts in areas with positive cases.
· Health officer Dr Dhananjay More says officials are arranging for ambulance for patients who show severe symptoms.
· Patients with low oxygen levels, fever and symptoms related to Covid-19 are sent to institutional quarantine centres.
That sinking feeling again? The story of Dharavi is in line with what is happening in Maharashtra, which has registered the most number of Covid cases since the beginning of the outbreak last year. After a lull, cases across the state are rising again. In 2020, a strict lockdown helped Dharavi, which recorded 94 cases on May 3. It fell to zero on December 25, before gradually rising again. At present the seven-day average of cases for Dharavi stands at 12, down from the peak of 60 in May 2020 but up from the lowest of five in January 2021.
The numbers that matter:
· As of March 10, the state has recorded a total of 22,52, 057 cases, according to covid19india.org.
· There are 99,008 active cases, while 20, 99, 207 have recovered.
· A total 52, 610 people have died and 1.7 crore tested.
· 18,436 out of every 10 lakh people in Maharashtra have tested positive. For India, this number is 8,466.9.
· For every 100 positive cases, 4.4 are currently infected.
· For every 100 cases, two have died.
· In the last one week, the number of new infections has grown by an average of 0.5% every day.
Why the spike in Dharavi?
· Crowds are back on the streets and small-scale industries there are operating again without precautions.
· Wearing of masks or maintaining physical distancing are not being followed diligently.
Voices from the ground:
· If corona is on the rise again, people should wear masks. Some people don’t.
· There is a need to maintain social distancing.
· Because of some people’s negligence, others are at risk.
· BMC should do aggressive screening. Otherwise, the infection will spread even faster.
“Dharavi is a high-density area….it was noticed by the world when we controlled the spread there (last year). And our Dharavi model (aggressive screening, testing and tracking) is applied elsewhere in the world too. Now, we have applied the same with a rise in cases…,” says Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar.