While civic authorities are straining every nerve to tackle the coronavirus pandemic, their pre-monsoon preparation to deal with seasonal outbreaks like malaria and leptospirosis is taking a hit.
Health experts have cautioned about the possibility of a rise in the cases of monsoon-related diseases this year. Every year, monsoon preparations begin in March, but this year, there is not even a decision on the subject as yet.
Officials from the pesticide department had said at the beginning of the year that for the first time in the last five years, there had been no malaria deaths in Mumbai. However, in the current situation, they fear malaria, dengue and leptospirosis cases will only increase, as the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has put all its employees on sanitisation duty but has not begun any work for the monsoon.
The 600 employees of the pesticide department are busy sanitising all 24 wards of the city. Currently, there are only 100-150 employees who are carrying out fogging and fumigation daily. “In order to get a grip on monsoon diseases, we need to start three months before its onset. But so far, we have not received any orders or directions from the BMC, as all our manpower is deployed towards controlling coronavirus,” said an official.
He further said, three chemicals are used to control diseases spread by rats, mosquitoes and flies and thats it was their solid preparatory work that ensured for the first time in the last five years that not a single malaria death was reported from Mumbai in January 2020. But now, the story has changed.
“Some higher authorities in the BMC are not allowing us to begin monsoon preparation, saying ‘Corona pe dhyaan do… baaki ka baad me dekhenge (First focus on corona, we can later look at other things)',” the official said.
Dr Vikrant Shah, infectious diseases expert, said it would not be right to say the BMC was not thinking of monsoon preparation, but it was high time they did, as monsoon diseases cannot be avoided. “The BMC has utilised all its manpower and resources to control coronavirus in the city. But now, they need to assign some manpower to embark on monsoon preparation. If this is not done, it will be another emergencylike situation for Mumbai,” he said.
Shah further said, currently all hospitals are full of Covid patients and the number of cases were increasing daily. As a result, non-Covid patients are reluctant to visit any hospital, for fear of getting infected. “It will be a difficult situation for BMC to handle both corona and vector-borne diseases at the same time. As currently, there are no dedicated hospitals where they can treat patients from monsoon diseases,” he pointed out.
The municipal commissioner was unavailable for comment.