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Coronavirus scare in Dharavi: How Mumbai is fighting the virus spread in Asia’s biggest slum


Mumbai, Apr 07: Fear gripped people of Dharavi in Mumbai after the emergence of the novel coronavirus cases in the area. On April 1, a 56-year-old garment shop owner living in a Slum Rehabilitation Authority building in Dharavi became the first person from the area to test positive for coronavirus.

Coronavirus scare in Dharavi: How Mumbai is fighting the virus spread in Asia’s biggest slum

His wife, four daughters and two sons have since tested negative, but a day later, a 52-year-old sanitation worker and a 35-year-old doctor tested positive.

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Since the outbreak, Mumbai's Dharavi has reported steady increase in the number of cases, taking the number to 7 on Tuesday. Father and brother of the 2nd case in Dharavi have tested positive for COVID-19. Dr Baliga Nagar area of Dharavi has been sealed. Contact tracing of the new cases is being done.

A potential spread in Dharavi, home to 850,000 people living cheek by jowl has proven to be a challenge for the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). The authorities have created containment zones where these cases were found, but in GN ward, where Dharavi is situated, restricting public movement is hard to execute.

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With lack of hygiene, and large families squeezed into small spaces, some of them near open gutters, the area has become a nightmare for any effort to step up cleanliness. To tackle the situation, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has set up a branch in each of the seven wards of Dharavi.

Every branch has around 150 sanitation workers who fan out across the length and breadth of the slum pocket, sweeping the roads and collecting garbage twice a day.

The BMC has quarantined about 3,000 people in Dharavi or 0.03% of its population three others have been infected and results of as many as 25 are awaited.

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A sports club in the vicinity is being converted into a 300-bed isolation facility and a nearby 50-bed hospital has been acquired for asymptomatic cases. Authorities say they are providing food and water to affected residents.

The authorities have deployed a team of doctors and nurses and 170 health workers are dedicated to Dharavi alone.

Maharashtra has seen the highest number of deaths due to the disease caused by the novel coronavirus that was first detected in China in December. A novel virus is one that has not been previously identified in humans.

Maharashtra, which remains the worst-hit state with more than 781 cases, also has a very high fatality rate. Currently with 45 deaths, the highest in India, its fatality rate is 5.8.

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