Coronavirus in Mumbai: BMC out to gain trust for sero 2.0

BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has now decided to knock on doors to create awareness regarding its antibody testing in non-slum areas before it begins the second round of the serological survey. This move comes after only 10 per cent people from residential areas had cooperated with researchers during the first sero survey. Officials said the second phase of the survey will start from the coming weekend. This time, they have reduced participation to 6,200 from 10,000, which was in the first phase of sero survey.

Civic officials said there is a need to create awareness about this survey, as most people hesitate to come forward and fear that they would be sent to a quarantine centre. Moreover, they had also noticed that health workers were insulted by non-slum dwellers on visits to collect samples. “During the first sero survey, we had targeted to screen nearly 4,000 individuals from non-slum areas. However, only 2,702 samples were collected. So, we decided to create awareness before starting the second round,” said Suresh Kakani, additional municipal commissioner, BMC. Moreover they will be conducting several workshops amongst non-slum dwellers about sero survey and its importance.

The civic body, along with NITI-Aayog and TIFR, had started sero surveillance on July 3 in three wards —M (West) (Tilaknagar and Chembur), F (North) (Matunga, Sion and Wadala) and R (North) (Dahisar and Mandapeshwar), wherein a group of individuals undergoes blood tests to detect the presence of Immunoglobulin-G (IgG) antibodies that helps to identify individuals who were previously infected with the virus and have now recovered.

Health workers involved in collecting the blood samples said they had to face several impediments during the first survey in the form of insults or being barred from entering the society premises. “Everyone knows that if COVID-19 is diagnosed earlier, it will help them get treated soon. However, non-slum dwellers still have stigma towards it and don’t allow us to enter societies. Moreover, they even locked the society gates and instructed the security guard to not let us enter,” said one of the volunteers.

If anyone disagrees with giving samples for testing, volunteers have to find a replacement so that they don’t again fall short of the sample numbers. “We are trying to gain the trust of the people for this survey, as it will help us to know how many of them have the prevalence of COVID-19,” said Kakani.

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