Centre praises BMC for COVID-19 growth-rate dip in Dharavi
New Delhi, June 21: The Centre praised the Mumbai civic body on Sunday for "actively" chasing the novel coronavirus in Dharavi, saying proactive measures reduced the growth rate of the infection in Asia's largest slum to 1.02 per cent in June from 12 per cent in April.
The Union Health Ministry also lauded the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) for ensuring a steep decline of daily COVID-19 cases in Dharavi from an average of 43 in May to 19 in the third week of June.
Through a pre-emptive, proactive and graded response policy, the Centre is taking several steps along with the states and Union territories for prevention, containment and management of COVID-19, the ministry said in a statement.
In this effort, various guidelines, advisories and treatment protocols have been developed and shared with the states to strengthen the collective response toward combating COVID-19, the statement said.
Noting that several states have implemented these containment strategies and produced effective outcomes, the Centre said the efforts of the Maharashtra government and the BMC had shown encouraging results.
"As part of these efforts, they have actively chased the virus and aggressively conducted targeted tracing of COVID suspects," the ministry said.
"Being densely populated (2,27,136 persons/sqkm), Dharavi had 491 cases in April 2020 with a 12% growth rate and a case doubling period of 18 days," it said. "The proactive measures adopted by BMC reduced the COVID-19 growth rate to 4.3% in May 2020 and further to 1.02% in June."
These measures also ensured an improved case doubling time to 43 days in May and 78 days in June, the Centre said.
The BMC faced several challenges in Dharavi where 80 per cent of the population depends on community toilets, it said.
About 8-10 people live in households or hutment that measures about 10/10 feet, coupled with existence of narrow lanes with two-three-storey houses where often the ground floor is a house and other floors are used as factories, the statement said.
Hence, there were severe limitations of physical distancing with no possibility of effective 'home quarantine', it said.
The BMC adopted a model of actively following the four T's - tracing, tracking, testing and treating, the ministry said.
This approach included activities like proactive screening and while 47,500 people were covered by doctors and private clinics in house-to-house screening, about 14,970 people were screened with the help of mobile vans, and 4,76,775 were surveyed by BMC health workers."
Fever clinics were set up for screening high risk category such as elderly/senior citizens. This helped to screen 3.6 lakh people. Also, around 8246 senior citizens were surveyed and as part of its policy of 'timely separation', they were separated from the other community to effectively limit the transmission of the disease," the ministry said.
In all, 5,48,270 people have been screened in Dharavi with suspected cases shifted to well organised COVID care centres and quarantine centres, it said.
To tackle the issue of manpower to carry out proactive screening in high risk zones, the BMC forged strategic public private partnerships in containment measures and all available 'private' practitioners were mobilised, the ministry said.
"BMC provided the private doctors with PPE Kits, thermal scanners, pulse Oxymeters, masks and gloves and started door-to-door screening in high risk zones and all suspects were identified," it said.
The BMC encouraged all practitioners to open their clinics to attend to the patients and communicate to it in case any COVID-19 suspects were found, the statement said.
"BMC sanitised the clinics of the private practitioners and provided them all necessary support. To augment health infrastructure in the city, all private hospitals were brought on board and acquired for treatment," it said.
As the option of home quarantine could not effectively produce the desired outcomes due to the space limitations in the congested area, institutional quarantine facilities were created in all available schools, marriage halls, sports complexes, etc, the ministry said.
These were provided with a community kitchen for breakfast, lunch and dinner, round-the-clock access to medical services, necessary medicines and equipment, it said.
A salient feature of the BMC's COVID-19 response strategy is strict enforcement of containment measures, which has three primary components -- an effective containment strategy, conducting comprehensive testing, and ensuring uninterrupted supply of goods and essential supplies to the community.
Only critical patients were moved outside Dharavi for admission to hospitals and 90 per cent of the patients were treated inside Dharavi itself, the ministry said.
BMC also distributed more than 25,000 grocery kits and more than 21,000 food packets for lunch and dinner separately within the containment zones so people stayed inside and did not have the need to move out, thereby curbing spread of the virus, it said.
Food and grocery were also supplied and distributed free of cost by local MLAs, MPs and corporators, it said, adding that there was frequent disinfection of the containment area and community toilets.
The Maharashtra State Road Transport Corporation buses were operated for facilitating staff conveyance, while the high-risk zone was sealed from all sides and community leaders were appointed as a 'COVID warriors' to address all issues of the community and to act as a bridge between the health workers and the community, it noted.
This helped to allay any fears and concerns they may have, and bolstered their confidence in the government's efforts, it said.