'Sensible administrative structure, decentralisation and data-driven planning': Things that helped BMC to tackle second COVID-19 wave better than Delhi

Amid a major crisis of medical oxygen in the country, the Supreme Court on Wednesday praised the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for its handling of the COVID-19 situation in Mumbai.

This also comes in the wake of the financial capital seeing a downward trend in its daily coronavirus cases. "Bombay Municipal Corporation has done some remarkable work and not disrespecting Delhi but we can maybe see what was done by BMC," Justice Chandrachud said.

Now, one might wonder as to why Mumbai is handling its second wave better than Delhi. The report in the international weekly newspaper The Economist has credited the "sensible administrative structure, decentralisation and data-driven planning" for the same.

The article has noted that the coordinated efforts through a distributed network of 23 BMC war rooms have led to efficient bed management.

While explaining about the difference in the handling of the second wave by Delhi and Mumbai authorities, it mentioned that the unified chain of command in Mumbai contrasting to overlapping authorities in Delhi led to better management in the case of Mumbai.

In the case of Delhi, the article noted that Delhi’s disadvantages may be because of its neighbours. "The city spills over its borders to take in the most urbanised bits of two states with much worse health care," the article noted while elaborating on the effect of the influx of patients from Uttar Pradesh and Haryana to Delhi.

Meanwhile, as a silver lining to the lockdown, there has been a 34.53 per cent drop in the number of active cases across Mumbai in the last month. According to the BMC data, there were 77,495 active cases as of April 6, which further reduced to 54,472 as of May 6.

Officials have attributed the drop to the measures it took last month, of which the Break The Chain mission and the implementation of strict restrictions have played a vital role.

Meanwhile, the cases reported daily for the last one week is below 5,000 and it is expected to drop more by the next week. Suresh Kakani, an additional municipal corporation, BMC, said the restrictions have helped curb it. “We only urge citizens to follow the COVID-19 norms strictly so that the trend continues downward. Moreover, 87 per cent of the active cases are asymptomatic. Only 2 per cent to 3 per cent is critical and needs to be hospitalised,” he said.

Kakani further said their main concern is now to contain the mortality rate. All COVID-19 hospitals have been directed to follow Mission Save Lives. “Every death is unfortunate. However, if we see the overall picture, the daily death rate is still under 0.6. Even our overall case fatality rate, which was 5 in October-November, 2020, has dropped to 2.1,” said Kakani. “The city’s death rate due to COVID-19 this month is lower than the national average,” he added.

Dr Rahil Pandit, a member of the state task force, said there is possibly a change in the disease pattern. “The COVID-19 cycle is usually two to three weeks long. For the first one week to 10 days, youngsters remain asymptomatic, but then land up in hospital with a cytokine storm,” he said. Cytokine storms are a severe immune reaction in which the body releases too many cytokines or proteins into the blood too quickly.

(With inputs from Swapnil Mishra of FPJ)

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