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Dharavi sees no new COVID-19 cases for first time since Feb; how area overcame 2nd wave

·4-min read

The BMC's strategy of 'screen, test and isolate' to curb the second COVID-19 wave in Dharavi, one of the most congested urban slum areas in the world, was lauded for curbing the number of cases. On Monday, the area had no new cases for the first time since February.

Health experts and government officials had raised concerns about the rising COVID-19 cases in the densely populated area at the start of the second wave in mid-February.

So far, Dharavi has reported 6,861 total number of cases, 359 deaths, and 6,480 recoveries. There are currently 13 active cases.

The area saw a record single-day increase of 99 cases on 8 April 2021, when the country was battling the exponential second wave of the pandemic. Spread over 2.5 square kilometres and housing a mix of shanties and micro industrial units, Dharavi is home to almost 6.5 lakh people.

How the numbers stand

Of the total caseload in Dharavi, 36 percent or 2,500 cases were reported in March and April, when the second wave began spreading. After recording no new cases in 24 hours on 2 February, the trajectory steadily rose to an average of 50 new cases in March, Indian Express reported.

In the last week of March, the number of active cases rose to 180 and on 1 May, the figure stood at 947. As of 26 May, the report added that the number of active cases was down to 62.

The area, which had also successfully tamed the first wave of COVID-19 by September 2020, saw a dip in gradual cases over the course of May 2021.

After reporting up to 99 COVID-19 cases every day in April, Dharavi recorded less than five new cases in the last week of May. As of 28 May, the number of active patients was 50.

Experts attributed the success to the 'Dharavi model'.

What is the 'Dharavi model'?

The 'Dharavi model', which encompasses the strategy of screening, testing, and isolating, was lauded for curbing the cases in the area.

When cases started rising sharply in March and April, civic authorities were pushed to once again fall back on the 'Dharavi model' which involved 4Ts €" tracing, tracking, testing and treating €" a strategy which was praised by the World Health Organisation (WHO) during the first wave of COVID-19.

"Despite a slow spread of the virus in December 2020 and early January 2021, we continued with comprehensive testing and tracking of cases in Dharavi," Kiran Dighavkar, assistant municipal commissioner of G-North ward that houses Dharavi, told PTI.

With the onset of the COVID-19 second wave in February 2021, the 'Dharavi model' was activated again to stem the spread of the infection, he added.

"Door-to-door screening of people with symptoms, aggressive testing, regular screening and testing of Dharavi residents who work in different parts of Mumbai, including delivery personnel, industrial workers, helped to control the spread of the pandemic," Dighavkar said.

Dighavkar said even though the second wave has eased, the BMC is going to continue screening and testing of people through 11 fever clinics and mobile testing units in anticipation of a third wave of the infection.

"We will not let our guards down even though the cases have dropped. We are going to continue aggressive screening and testing until Dharavi reports zero cases," Dighavkar said.

The focus will continue to be on vaccination in Dharavi where 27,000 people have been inoculated against COVID-19 so far, he added.

The steady drop in coronavirus cases in the sprawling and congested shanty town, which was once a COVID-19 hotspot, brought huge relief to the civic authorities in Mumbai, PTI reported.


Why is a COVID-19 spike in Dharavi cause for concern?

Dharavi has a population of 6.5 lakh, which means 2,27,136 people living per square kilometres. Social distancing is next to impossible in Dharavi, where families of eight to ten people live in 10x10 hutments.

Apart from congested slum pockets, Dharavi is home to several small-scale leather, pottery and textile manufacturing units.

The area has 5,000 GST-registered enterprises, 15,000 single-room factories and is a hub of international exports with an annual turnover of $1 billion, according to BMC data.

The first COVID-19 patient was detected in Dharavi on 1 April, 2020, about 20 days after Mumbai reported its first COVID-19 case.

Thereafter, the daily COVID-19 cases rose sharply and the area was declared a 'COVID-19 hotspot'.

With a proactive screening of residents with the assistance of private doctors and community support, the local body managed to flatten the COVID-19 curve last year. PTI reported that the biggest challenge for the BMC was to maintain hygiene as 80 percent of the population is dependent on 450 community toilets.

Hence, the civic body focused on cleaning these toilets thrice a day to control the spread of COVID-19.

With inputs from PTI


Also See: Decentralisation and social mobilisation during the second wave of COVID-19

COVID-19: Bombay HC asks Centre to look at Kerala, J&K pattern for door-to-door vaccination

COVID-19 updates: SC slams Centre's vaccination policy, seeks purchase data; India sees 1.32 lakh new cases

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