Mumbai: BMC sends swabs for genome testing amid rise in COVID-19 cases

Daily testing to increase from 8k to 25k as authorities look for cause of surge

SHEFALI PARAB-PANDIT Swapnil MishraUpdated: Thursday, June 02, 2022, 11:30 PM IST
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Mumbai: BMC sends swabs for genome testing amid rise in COVID-19 cases | (PTI Photo)

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has sent swab samples collected from across the city for genome sequencing to the lab at Kasturba Hospital in a bid to ascertain the reason for the surge in Covid cases. Test results to identify the variant of Covid are expected in the next two days. Meanwhile, the BMC has decided to increase Covid testing from 8,000 per day to 25,000.

On Thursday, the city reported one death and 704 new Covid cases, which were recorded at 739 the previous day. The civic body said they are awaiting the genome sequencing results which are underway. “We have experience of handling the three previous Covid waves in the worst of situations. This time too, we are confident that we would be able to handle any rise in cases. The majority of those testing positive are asymptomatic, while the beds available at hospitals are adequate. If required, we will increase the daily testing further,” additional municipal commissioner Dr Sanjeev Kumar said. In wake of the upcoming monsoons, the civic body is well prepared and all required infrastructure has been mobilised, he added.

The first Covid wave in the city began in March 2020 and the second in February 2021. The third wave was witnessed in January 2022, and the number of daily positive cases crossed 20,000. However, the drop in cases also began quickly. At that time, the BMC was conducting 50,000 to 60,000 tests daily. There were 266 centres across the city where both RT-PCR and Antigen tests were being carried out.

On Thursday, 9,544 Covid tests were conducted at several locations across the city. Since the number of cases is rising again, the BMC has appealed to people to follow Covid-appropriate behaviour, including washing hands regularly, using face masks and maintaining social distance, for their safety.

Dr Umang Agarwal, infectious diseases specialist, P D Hinduja Hospital, has attributed the surge in cases to the relaxation in Covid norms and the arrival of international travellers. “After the third wave, citizens had started behaving casually towards Covid and had stopped following norms, resulting in the surge now. Moreover, there are fewer restrictions on international travellers despite the ongoing surge in cases in the US and UK. Returning travellers also stand the risk of getting infected with some variant or new strain,” he said.

Dr Rahul Pandit, director, critical care, Fortis Hospitals (Mumbai) and member of the national Covid Task Force, said the rising cases across Mumbai can be attributed to the mild Omicron variants or any of the sub-lineages of Omicron. According to Pandit, it is too early to say if it is the fourth wave, but the civic body needs to be well prepared to handle hospitalisations if they increase to over 40-50 per day.

“We need to be more vigilant and focus on being well prepared in handling any further waves of Covid. Moreover, we need to focus on hospitalisation and protect the vulnerable. Covid-appropriate behaviour is recommended, especially masking, in indoor closed environments,” he said.

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