COVID-19 testing in Mumbai's Dharavi stepped up
COVID-19 testing in Mumbai's Dharavi stepped up
Photo: BL Soni

Mumbai: While the recent spike in coronavirus cases in Mumbai has many wondering if the rising number of commuters on local trains is responsible for it, the BMC has accelerated its Covid-19 testing drive in the city, to reach out to the maximum number of citizens. As a precautionary measure, the number of tests and screenings in Dharavi and adjoining areas have been increased with the help of mobile vans.

The city reported 375 cases on February 9, and this number went up to 558 on February 10 and on Sunday, February 14, the number of cases recorded across Mumbai jumped to 645. “The focus areas will be those where cases are on the rise,” a BMC official said.

An RT-PCR test drive in Asia’s largest slum colony Dharavi, that topped the list as city’s Covid-19 hotspot, and the adjoining areas of Mahim and Dadar was organised from February 13-15.

The civic body’s G north ward (Dharavi, Mahim, Dadar) has even organised testing and screening camps through mobile vans in the area in this period, to ensure that cases, if any, are detected early and the spread is arrested.

Dharavi, which is spread over an area of 2.5 sq km area and houses nearly 6.5 lakh people, reported its first coronavirus case on April 1, 2020, nearly three weeks after Mumbai recorded its first positive case on March 11. It later emerged as one of the Covid-19 hotspots in the city, until cases were successfully brought under control with coordinated efforts by various stakeholders.

Various agencies worldwide, including World Health Organisation (WHO) and most recently, the World Bank, had praised the civic body for its ‘Dharavi model’. The model is being emulated worldwide in areas which are congested and where social distancing is not possible due to the dense population.

“In view of the unlock, when most people are now back to work, institutional quarantine doesn’t work. So, we came up with home service of testing of high-risk contacts (HRC) of those tested positive. We will be taking our mobile vans to various areas and appeal to the public to come forward and be tested,” said Kiran Dighavakar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, G-North ward.

“Majority of migrant workers in Dharavi who left for their native towns at the peak of the pandemic are now back and have been travelling to other parts of Mumbai in large numbers for work. With this in mind, it has been decided to conduct large-scale tests in Dharavi and other areas and test camps organised from Saturday to Monday,” said another BMC official.

At the same time, markets at Dadar are getting crowded again. Some parts of Mahim too witness crowds, the official added.

It was a herculean task for civic officials to get a grip on the rapidly rising number of cases in the G north ward, especially the congested slums of Dharavi ,where physical distancing was just impossible. Bearing this in mind, the civic body prefers to be extra cautious and avert a spike in cases in these areas.

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