’City not yet ready to be free of curbs’, says Aslam Shaikh

MUMBAI: Guardian Minister Aslam Shaikh, who is also a cabinet rank minister of textile, port and fisheries in Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray's government, in a telephonic interview with the Free Press Journal correspondent Sweety Adimulam hints that the city is not yet ready to uplift the lockdown given its number of hotspots. However, he asserts that the government’s stand on it would be clear by April 30.

The entire city is reporting a rise in the number of cases. Being a guardian minister of the city, how are you monitoring the situation?

All the officials are in constant touch with each other to keep a track of the entire situation. We have video conference calls to discuss strategies and plans to tackle this pandemic. Simultaneously, we are also increasing the number of beds in hospitals, quarantine and isolation centre facilities. In Mumbai, the cases are largely asymptomatic. So far, we have been able to manage the situation.

What is the reason for the rise in the number of cases in Mumbai?

Several reasons could be attributed to it. First, we have slum pockets that have toilets shared by a large population. Second, we have markets where people gather in large numbers.

These were the two places where maximum transmission of the virus took place. For instance, in Dharavi, one toilet is used by 150 odd families.

Obviously, an infected person can spread the virus to countless others. However, the best part is that a lot of asymptomatic people are coming forward, are getting treated and are also quarantining themselves.

So, we are on the right track. Even the mortality rate has declined from 9 per cent to 4.5 per cent now. 70 to 85 per cent of the deaths reported now have a history of sickness before getting infected.

Do we have adequate medical facilities to tackle the virus? Are we seeking money from state/centre separately for Mumbai?

Definitely, we have made all the required provisions to handle the situation. Currently, we have a capacity of around 600 beds in the civic run Seven Hills Hospital. In the next 15 days, it will go up to 1400 beds.

In other hospitals also, we are doubling the capacity of beds. We are not seeking separate funds for Mumbai, as the civic body has sufficient money and we are managing through it. However, we are asking the centre for funds for the state.

Worli is declared as one of the containment zones and has been completely sealed for the past few weeks. Is there any sign of easing the restrictions?

For another 10 to 15 days, we cannot remove the restrictions. The situation in Worli has barely come under control. Until everything is neutralised completely, we cannot unseal the place.

The nation-wide lockdown will continue till May 3. What has the government planned to do after that?

Right now, the city is not ready for the lockdown to be eased, as there are so many hotspots. I don't see any visible chance of lifting the lockdown in Mumbai. We are still monitoring the situation closely.

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