The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is sharing a big responsibility with housing societies across the city. They are now testing housemaids, drivers, security guards, gardeners, plumbers, electricians, sweepers and housekeeping staff working in the huge and plush housing societies. This, according to sources in BMC, is an indirect way of identifying slum pockets where Covid cases might be on a rise in this second wave.
Suresh Kakani, Additional Municipal Commissioner and in-charge of Public Health in the BMC, has said that all the local ward offices have been directed to take action according to the situation on ground. "We have directed the locals to take action based on ground report, while at the same time we have also asked them to rope in ALMs, NGOs and public representatives so that there won't be a dearth of manpower," he said.
In the recent case, the residents of Adani Western Heights conducted a drive for four days in their society. This plush society comprising skyscrapers next to the Metro rail car depot in Four Bungalows, accommodates nearly 450 households. They took this drive between April 7 and 11 where these ancillary staff working for different households in the society were tested through RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT).
“We carried out these tests for free after tying up with the BMC. We tested the housekeeping staff, housemaids, cooks, security guards and drivers from our society,” said Shiv Sena leader Krishna Hegde, and resident of Adani Western Heights in Andheri (W). As on April 10, K/West ward has become a hotspot as it tops the list of most Covid-19 positive cases at 36375 and 7516 active cases as well.
In these four days, they tested 544 persons; of which 54 underwent RAT on the last day while others were tested for swabs through RT-PCR. They found 8 positive cases from RT-PCR and 7 positive cases from RAT. They are still awaiting results from two days of tests.
“My cook too was tested positive. So even my family took the RT-PCR tests, while our antigen tests came negative,” added Hegde. The society already has 24 Covid positive cases among its residents. With housing societies getting sealed and becoming micro containment zones; the focus for the BMC is also towards the economically backward class.
Many residents associations and citizen's groups have now tied up with the BMC to carry out mass RT-PCR testing drives at housing societies and neighbourhoods. Senior officials of the civic body said that most of these requests are coming from areas like - Bandra, Andheri, Jogeshwari and Juhu - which have a higher case load.
“After the new guidelines issued by the government, citizens have become cautious, many societies have formed rules that unless house helps and drivers don't carry a Covid-19 negative certificate, then they will not be allowed inside the society premises,” said the BMC official.
Local BMC wards have been told to hold testing camps fortnightly. Avinash Shikare, a resident of Bhuleshwar in South Mumbai, said that last Sunday a test campaign was conducted in his neighbourhood, where more than 200 local residents had participated.
"We are doing this just to raise awareness amongst people. We arranged for a testing camp in our society," said Shikare. Residents also maintained that due to the heavy demand, it's taking at least three days for the reports to appear.
Likewise the residents of Mulund are doing their bit to test their households and other housekeeping staff in their societies. “I have requested our housing society association to test the maids, drivers etc. and organise testing camps,” said Prakash Paddikal, Hillside Residents Welfare Association in Mulund.