BMC anticipates surge in COVID cases during Diwali

After the state government’s proposal asking the Railway Ministry to resume normal local train services around Diwali festival, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now pulled up their socks anticipating a surge in COVID-19 cases during the festive season as more people are expected to go out for shopping and meeting their friends and relatives.

The civic officials said they are well-prepared to handle a situation in which coronavirus cases shoot up, but now the onus is completely on the citizens to follow precautionary measures to avoid contracting the virus.

Suresh Kakani, Additional Commissioner, BMC, said they are expecting a surge in the coronavirus cases because of the state government’s proposed move. The people are expected to step out for their Diwali shopping.

“Currently, we are witnessing a stable number of cases but wearing masks, sanitising hands and other precautionary measures will help control the cases during festivals. Moreover, 54 percent of COVID beds are vacant in the city,” he said.

The Maharashtra government on Wednesday proposed to the Ministry of Railways to allow all commuters to travel by suburban trains. Moreover, they have written to the general managers (GMs) of Western Railway and Central Railway and proposed time slots to allow all commuters to use suburban train services. Three time slots during the day have been proposed for all commuters and also a special train for women passengers after every hour.

Former KEM Dean Dr Avinash Supe, who heads the audit committee, said the state government proposal of resuming trains before Diwali festival will not make any difference as the trains need to be for the general public before or after Diwali. Most important is to follow COVID-19 protocol during the festive season to avoid the second wave.

“If the citizens do not wear masks or follow social distancing then Mumbai will start witnessing the second wave like other countries,” he said.

Dr Lancelot Pinto, Consultant Pulmonologist, PD Hinduja Hospital & MRC, said a surge in the coronavirus cases is likely during the festive season, and with the trains resume normal services.

“Precautions need to be taken during the festive season which includes limiting celebrations to as small a group of people or families as possible, avoiding speaking loudly or singing (these have been associated with the generation of significantly more droplets and transmission), avoiding loud music (makes people speak louder), and trying to gather in open areas as much as feasible (balconies/terraces), or if indoors, keeping the doors and windows as open as possible,” Dr Pinto said. “Studies have also suggested an association between air pollution levels and severity of COVID, so it is in everyone’s best interests to keep the air pollution levels as low as possible by limiting fireworks. For trains, the only real way to protect oneself is to wear a mask. Studies have suggested that if one does get infected despite this, the infection might be milder. In the absence of the option to keep trains less crowded, this natural “variolation” might be our best bet,” he said.

Moreover, BMC is also planning to ramp up its daily testing mechanism in the wake of the state government’s proposed move. The civic body is also planning to organise free testing camps in Mumbai and management of hospital beds for COVID-19 patients.

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