Mumbai With the BMC’s change in policy on 'containment zones and 'sealed buildings allowing for only a single building or wing to be sealed, rather than an entire housing society, in case a COVID-19 case is detected, the number of containment zones in the city has fallen drastically, and the number of sealed buildings has almost trebled.
As reported first exclusively by The Free Press Journal on May 18, under the new policy, while a larger area or zone in a city will be designated a containment zone and will be managed by the police, civic officials and the local MLA, sealed buildings in containment zones will be managed by the societies.
On Tuesday, the number of containment zones in the city stood at 654, down from 1,110 on May 17, when the change in rules came into force. Meanwhile, the number of sealed buildings in the city has risen sharply to 1,910 on Tuesday, up from 661 on May 17.
While residents groups have welcomed the changes in the policy for sealing of buildings, they have, at the same time, also voiced apprehensions about office bearers of housing societies being held accountable for monitoring the health of patients in the sealed building or flat and for adherence to norms laid down.
Under the revised policy, the responsibility for maintaining social distancing will rest with the management committee of the housing societies, while the civic body will advise and guide the committee on the guidelines to be followed.
The new policy further states that in case a positive case is found in a building, only that particular wing or building will be sealed and not the entire society; this will be a relief for other residents and also ensure there is no unnecessary panic. In a further tweaking of the policy, the entire building might not have to be sealed either.
Instead, BMC officials can seal the particular floor where the COVID-19 case is found. The symptomatic patients will be then transferred to hospitals, and the asymptomatic patients will be placed under home quarantine.
The civic body has made the office bearers of the housing society’s managing committee responsible for monitoring the situation of the building and health condition of the quarantined patients, and to report directly to the local ward office on a regular basis. "According to the new rules, once a floor or a wing is sealed, the BMC will hand over the area to the building secretary or the chairperson.
The office bearers need to ensure containment zones rules are followed in the building, which the civic body will monitor" said a senior BMC official. However, the civic body has also maintained that in some cases, it may seal the entire building if the need arises. The managing committees of the buildings have been given the responsibility.
"These new set of regulations is a welcome step. However, at the same time, authorities need to be slightly flexible and a bit more understanding and shouldn't impose all the responsibility on the managing committees, as they also need to understand that, society management bodies already have too much on their plate," said Dhaval Shah, Andheri based resident and chairman of citizens group, Lokhandwala Oshiwara Citizen's Association (LOCA).
"Sealing the entire locality used to require a lot of manpower and used to cause hindrance to the lifestyle of other people living in the area as well. These new rules will be a relief for Mumbaikars," said Anup Singhal, Goregaon resident and member of a suburban Mumbai housing society group.
"The BMC has only sealed the fifth floor of our thirteen-storey building on Monday, where a patient tested positive. Civic officials haven't sealed the building as such, but asked us to keep our gates closed," said an L-ward based resident, whose building was sealed on Monday.
"Earlier, we have seen entire areas in our locality being sealed after cases were detected. This used to cause us a lot of inconvenience. However, this new law appears to be more flexible as it doesn't cause hindrance to the other people living in the same building," she added.
Earlier, the civic body used to supply essential commodities like ration to the buildings in the containment zones, but now, the civic body will connect the vendors to the management of the societies of the sealed buildings who will be required to place the order to the vendors who will then deliver the goods to their building.
The society management has also been directed to conduct temperature checks and monitor the health condition of the quarantined patients.