Mumbai: After reporting up to 99 Covid-19 cases daily in April, Mumbai’s slum colony of Dharavi has seen a gradual drop in single-day infections. The infections have been five in the last couple of days, the tally of patients under treatment has dropped to 50. It is a huge turnaround in the second wave. The ‘Dharavi model’ of Covid-19 management and the vaccination drive has helped in successfully containing the second wave in the area, officials said.
A steady drop in coronavirus cases in Dharavi has brought huge relief to the civic authorities in Mumbai. Dharavi is a sprawling and congested shanty town which was once a Covid-19 hotspot. Not anymore now.
BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation) officials said the slum cluster reported three and four cases Wednesday and Thursday. It is in stark comparison to the city of Mumbai. The city is still witnessing daily coronavirus cases in four digits. Officials said Dharavi’s active cases have come down to just 50. This was in sharp contrast to the adjoining Dadar and Mahim areas, which have 204 and 254 active cases, respectively.
Since the outbreak of coronavirus in April 2020, the slum-dominated area has reported 354 deaths (till May 26). Of those, 42 fatalities have been recorded since February 7, 2021, the officials informed.
According to them, the daily Covid-19 cases in Dharavi started going up from mid-February. It was the time when Mumbai was hit by a second wave of the coronavirus infection. Cases in the slum-dominated area rose significantly in March and peaked in April. The slum reported the highest single-day spike of 99 cases April 8.
The sharp rise in daily infections pushed the civic authorities to once again fall back on the ‘Dharavi model’ which involved 4Ts. They are tracing, tracking, testing and treating. It is a strategy which has been praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the first wave of Covid-19.
“Despite a slow spread of the virus in December 2020 and early January 2021, we continued with comprehensive testing and tracking of cases in Dharavi,” said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner of G-North ward that houses Dharavi. With the onset of the Covid-19 second wave in February 2021, the Dharavi Model was activated again to stem the spread of the infection, he said.
“Door-to-door screening of people with symptoms, regular screening and testing of Dharavi residents who work in different parts of Mumbai, including delivery personnel, industrial workers, helped to control the spread of the pandemic,” Dighavkar said.
Dharavi has a population of 6.5 lakh. It means 2,27,136 people living per sq km. Social distancing was next to impossible in Dharavi, where families of eight to 10 people live in 10×10 hutments.
Apart from congested slum pockets, Dharavi is 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, according to BMC data.
In Dharavi, the first Covid-19 patient was found April 1, 2020, about 20 days after Mumbai reported its first case. Thereafter, the daily cases rose sharply, the area was declared a Covid-19 hotspot’.
With a proactive screening of residents with the assistance of private doctors and community support, the local body managed to flatten the Covid curve last year. According to a BMC official, the biggest challenge was to maintain hygiene. This is as 80 per cent the population is dependent on 450 community toilets. Hence, the civic body focused on cleaning these toilets thrice a day to control the spread of Covid-19, Dighavkar said.
Dighavkar said even though the second wave has eased, the BMC is screening and testing of people through 11 fever clinics and mobile testing units in anticipation of a third wave of the infection.
“We will not let our guards down even though the cases have dropped. We are going to continue aggressive screening and testing until Dharavi reports zero cases,” Dighavkar asserted.
The focus will also continue to be on vaccination in Dharavi. So far 27,000 people have been inoculated against Covid-19, Dighavkar added.