The COVID-19 situation in Mumbai, despite the obvious large numbers, is slowly coming under control. An important parameter to track the progress of the pandemic is the effective re-production number or R, which measures the transmission potential of a disease. Interestingly, a research by Dr Neeraj Hatekar, professor of econometrics, Mumbai University, and Pallavi Belhekar, professor of MMK College of Commerce and Economics, said that Mumbai has a low R at 1.37 which is lower than that of Kerala, a success story in the context of containing the virus.
“The problem is that Mumbai has more cases in comparison to Kerala or other districts in Maharashtra. Thus, Mumbai’s problem is not its rapidly expanding pandemic, but its large base, which generates large numbers even if the infection rate is lower than that in many districts of the state,’’ said Hatekar and Belhekar.
The research pointed out that the highest R of around 3.5 is not observed in Mumbai, Thane and Pune, but in the tribal dominated districts of Gadchiroli and Chandrapur as well as the relatively underdeveloped districts of Beed and Osmanabad in the Marathwada region. Three districts of Vidarbha, five of Marathwada and two of Western Maharashtra have higher than the average re-production number of R.
Hatekar told the Free Press Journal that they have restricted their analysis to the districts where there have been at least 10 cases cumulatively and at least 15 days have elapsed since they were detected. They have computed the re-production number of R for May 31 and on the x axis they have the number of cases.
The research further notes that Pune, Aurangabad and Nagpur are all in the quadrant with low R and high doubling period. On the other hand, Osmanabad, Chandrapur, Kolhapur, Parbhani, Satara, Jalna, Latur, Raigad and Palghar are in the desirable zone of having low doubling rates and a high re-production number.
Mumbai, which is on the lower boundary of the desirable zone and has an improved doubling rate, will soon be in the desirable zone. Though Kerala has an R that is slightly higher than in Mumbai, its doubling rate is higher than that of Mumbai. This puts Kerala into the desirable quadrant. However, Nashik is outperforming Kerala, while Nagpur is a close competitor.
Hatekar and Belhekar observed that cities like Mumbai, Pune and Nagpur have healthcare infrastructure to a great extent to battle the pandemic, unlike the tribal and underdeveloped districts.
“There is now a need to look beyond the megapolis, where the COVID-19 situation is at an emergent level. Stepping up efforts at contact tracing, testing, quarantine and building up health capacities in certain districts will be necessary. It would be far easier to control the pandemic at this stage with cost-effective and practical methods,’’ said Hetekar.