Doctors wearing protective suits check residents with an electronic thermometer inside a slum in Worli, Mumbai | PTI
Doctors wearing protective suits check residents with an electronic thermometer inside a slum in Worli, Mumbai | Representational image | PTI
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Mumbai: Even as Mumbai is improving on several Covid-19 parameters, its mortality rate still remains high, with civic officials blaming it on the city’s high-rises. 

According to data with the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), as of 2 August, Mumbai had an average mortality rate of 5.5 per cent. This is much higher than Maharashtra’s average of 3.55 per cent and the country’s 2.13 per cent. Mumbai has so far recorded 1,16,451 Covid positive cases with 6,444 deaths. 

“The mortality rate in Mumbai is mainly a matter of concern as it is seen mostly in patients with comorbidities, and we still have issues such as patients reporting symptoms late,” Additional Municipal Commissioner Suresh Kakani told ThePrint. “This is especially happening in buildings and high-rises, not so much in slums.”

Kakani said the BMC does not have an exact break-up of the city’s total Covid deaths from slums versus buildings, but added, “The mortality rate in slums is quite low.”

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Several challenges for door-to-door surveys 

Most of Mumbai’s Covid fatalities are patients with comorbidities, especially those over 60 years of age. 

In the last 10 days from 24 July to 2 August, the data with BMC shows, Mumbai recorded 517 Covid deaths. Of these, 384 were patients with comorbidities and 351 were above 60. 

Yet, Mumbai has unoccupied ICU beds, oxygen beds and ventilators — all of which are required for the more severe Covid cases. As of 1 August, 185 ICU beds, 105 ventilator beds and 4,876 oxygen beds are vacant.

“Moreover, many patients still try home remedies first, consult private doctors and lose 3-4 days by the time they are detected Covid positive. This makes things difficult for patients with comorbidities,” Kakani said. 

For early detection, the BMC has been screening senior citizens for their oxygen saturation levels and temperature since April to catch any symptoms of Covid early on. The civic body has screened 7,33,940 senior citizens as of 1 August. Besides, since June, it has also started door-to-door surveys across slums and buildings to check for any Covid symptoms.

“We are trying to tell people to report at a civic facility early on,” Kakani said. “BMC is sending people for door-to-door surveys to catch early symptoms but at a lot of places, we are also struggling to get access. Societies don’t allow our health workers to enter.”

Manish Walunj, Assistant Municipal Commissioner in charge of the BMC’s L ward administrative unit, said, “Societies are reluctant to allow outsiders, even BMC workers, inside their premises. Often we get a call from buildings to confirm if they are actually our employees. Then, some insist on getting formal permission first. All this causes delays in door-to-door surveys.”

Those in slums more immune than those in buildings 

“Largely, the comorbidities that make people more vulnerable to Covid are lifestyle diseases such as hypertension or diabetes that come with mental stress and a sedentary lifestyle,” Walunj said. 

“We find these diseases more in high-rises than slums, and so fatalities too are more from buildings than slums,” he added. 

Last week, a sero surveillance survey conducted by the BMC in three of Mumbai’s 24 administrative wards found that 57 per cent of samples taken from slums had Covid antibodies as against 16 per cent from non-slum areas.

A sero surveillance survey is held to know the presence of antibodies against the virus in a population, revealing the exposure of the infection in the community.

While Mumbai’s mortality rate remains a concern, the city has improved its performance on most other counts. The daily growth rate of Covid positive cases is now 0.9 per cent, the doubling rate of cases is 78 days, while Mumbai has considerably ramped up testing over the past one month — 5.46 lakh samples tested as of 2 August, of which almost 1.5 lakh tests conducted in the last fortnight itself. 

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