Coronavirus outbreak: BMC not testing all high-risk patients in Mumbai

Updated: Apr 07, 2020, 07:33 IST | Arita Sarkar | Mumbai

While health experts warn against such a practice, civic officials say this reduces the burden on testing facilities in Mumbai

This picture has been used for representational purposes
This picture has been used for representational purposes

Even as the number of Coronavirus patients continues to grow, the civic body is not testing high-risk contacts that are asymptomatic in several parts of the city.

The civic administration is also setting up isolation facilities for COVID-19 patients who are asymptomatic in order to free up beds in hospitals for patients who are in a serious condition.

A senior civic official said that high-risk contacts who came in contact with a COVID-19 patient but display no symptoms are being kept in community halls and the facilities are primarily for residents of slum areas. "We are keeping them in these facilities and if anyone shows symptoms, we are testing them. If not, then they are sent home and placed under home quarantine for 14 days. There is a lot of load on the testing facilities at Kasturba Hospital. So this will help to reduce the burden on them," said the official.

Recently, around 200 people who had been identified as high-risk contacts from Worli Koliwada were shifted to Podar Hospital. Assistant Municipal Commissioner, Sharad Ughade had said that they would be kept under close observation and tested only if they displayed symptoms.

The G South ward that includes Worli Koliwada has nearly 70 cases so far.

Family members of a COVID-19 patient are categorised as high-risk contacts and until last month, they were all being tested even if they displayed no symptoms since the majority of the COVID-19 patients have been asymptomatic.

Dr Anant Bhan, researcher in Bioethics, Global Health and Policy said that putting high-risk patients together is a bad idea. "Not all high-risk contacts may be infected and by putting them together, it is increasing the risk of infection while they wait for people to exhibit symptoms," he said.

Despite calls and messages, BMC chief Praveen Pardeshi could not be reached for comment.

Another senior civic official said that various facilities including a maternity home near Lilavati Hospital in Bandra, the Urban Health Centre in Shivaji Park and the MCMCR are open to patients who have tested positive but are not displaying any symptoms.

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