New Delhi: With coronavirus cases rapidly rising in the capital, Delhi can learn lessons from the success of Asia’s biggest slum cluster Dharavi in Mumbai, ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta said in episode 496 of Cut The Clutter.
Dharavi was a cause of global concern — with nearly a million people living with poor sanitation in a 2.5 kilometre area.
However, authorities managed to slow down the spread of new cases in the slum area, with a number of proactive steps taken as soon as the disease began to spread in the area.
“Half of the people who had fallen sick in Dharavi so far have recovered. Active cases are now coming down. Fresh infections per day are a third of what they were in early May,” Gupta said.
“This, when cases in all of India have quadrupled since early May. India is recording over 10,000 cases per day,” he added.
Delhi, on the other hand, is beginning to look like the new epicentre.
Trajectories changed for Delhi and Mumbai
Mumbai and Delhi were both cities that were expected to be the worst-hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, because the virus thrives where population density is high, Gupta said.
However, over the past month or so, the two cities have changed their trajectories.
Mumbai, which had taken the lead in coronavirus cases earlier, seems to be getting its act together slowly.
“It is not victory yet, but figures in Mumbai are looking less worse than Delhi,” noted Gupta.
The worsening situation in Delhi, on the other hand, has prompted the central government to step in.
The Union Home Minister Amit Shah held a meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Sunday, along with a group of doctors and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD), and set up a new crisis plan.
How Covid-19 was tackled in Dharavi
The improvement in Mumbai’s Covid-19 numbers has come from Dharavi, which was expected to become a crisis spot, Gupta said.
“Dharavi is now turning out to be a real success story with lessons not just for the rest of Mumbai and Delhi but also for cities in other countries, particularly poor countries with crowded areas, like Brazil for example,” he added.
The rise of positive cases in Dharavi now is 1.57 per cent a day, while that of Mumbai is about 3 per cent today. Doubling rate in Dharavi is now 44 days while that of Mumbai is 22 days. Doubling time in India for active cases is about 26-27 days.
Preventive measures like social distancing and lockdowns cannot be easily implemented in a place like Dharavi, as people live in close quarters.
To tackle the crisis, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation set up teams to reach out to families door to door. These teams reached out to almost seven lakh people in Dharavi.
The BMC also ran fever clinics to allow people to get themselves checked. They also checked people’s oxygen saturation levels — if it was below 95 per cent, they were taken to quarantine centres where they were looked after.
This was much faster than testing, and in any case it was not possible to test everyone, Gupta said.
The BMC also employed 350 local private practitioners with whom patients had a certain level of comfort.
If someone was found to have symptoms, they could volunteer to be quarantined even without getting tested. Local clubs and schools were converted into quarantine facilities where free food and health check ups were provided throughout the day.
About 2,000 older people were taken to protective quarantine. By the beginning of June, there were no deaths in Dharavi.
“It’s only now that about 5-6 people have died in the last three or four days. So it’s not as if the story’s over. But there is a big change,” Gupta said.
Delhi is testing too little
Meanwhile in Delhi, seven of its districts are among the 15 worst-affected districts in India. Yet, the city is not conducting enough tests.
“One indication of whether you are testing enough or not is based on your test positivity rate. If your test positivity rate goes above 10 per cent, you should start testing more,” Gupta said.
Test positivity rate is the percentage of tests that turn out positive for SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19. If the rate is too high, it indicates that only the sickest are being tested and a large section of the population could be missing out.
In the last week, India conducted approximately a million tests, out of which about 76,000 are positive — which means India’s test positivity rate (TPR) is about 7.7 per cent.
In Mumbai, the TPR is around 29 per cent, and it is decreasing.
“The city has now allowed the private labs to test direct contacts of those who have been tested positive. So far, only people who showed symptoms of Covid-19 were being tested,” Gupta said.
“Meanwhile, the TPR for Delhi’s districts are very high,” he added.
Delhi’s Shahdara district has a TPR of 75.4 per cent, Southeast Delhi’s TPR is 63.4 per cent, Northeast has a TPR of 57.1 per cent, East Delhi is 45.1, North Delhi is 44.21, Northwest Delhi is 44.2 per cent, North Delhi is 39.2 per cent, Southwest Delhi has a TPR of 34.9 per cent while Central Delhi’s TPR is 34.2.
The home minister announced Sunday that in the next two days, testing in Delhi will be doubled, Gupta said.
Delhi has to learn from what Mumbai has done in Dharavi and has to start chasing the virus, Gupta added.
Several levels of governments make things harder for Delhi
Delhi has peculiar problems, Gupta said.
The national capital’s government is separate from its Municipal Corporation. While the state government is run by the Aam Aadmi Party, MCD is with the BJP. The central government also has special powers over Delhi, while the lieutenant governor of Delhi has executive powers.
The lieutenant governor is the chief executive of the city, unlike in Maharashtra and other states, where the governor is titular.
“Within all those limitations and complications, it is important that Delhi gets its act together,” Gupta said.
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