COVID-19 in Mumbai: After western suburbs, Mulund sees big spike

Updated: Jun 29, 2020, 10:04 IST | Faizan Khan | Mumbai

BMC officials say they do not know how to control the movement of residents who go to work and in societies that have over 100 flats; every building in T ward now has 4-5 cases

Residents emerge from Vardhman Nagar residential society in Mulund, though it is a Containment Zone
Residents emerge from Vardhman Nagar residential society in Mulund, though it is a Containment Zone

Since Unlock 1.0, the eastern suburb of Mulund has witnessed a significant increase in the number of COVID-19 cases. While the BMC claims it has managed to control the spread in slum pockets, it's businessmen in residential areas and high-rises who seem to have recently contracted the virus.

Mulund's geopolitical make-up is such that it is home to many small businessmen working in the APMC, customs and other such areas. Owing to the relaxation of norms and businessmen travelling to different parts of the city, the number of positive cases among the middle and upper-middle class is increasing rapidly.

Locals seen at Raje Sambhaji ground in Mulund East
Locals seen at Raje Sambhaji ground in Mulund East

"It was expected that cases will rise as we are lifting the restrictions and people will start moving. In T ward, we have a large number of mobile population which goes out for work daily. For example, around 12,000 people go to Jawaharlal Nehru Port Trust (JNPT) daily and a large number goes to APMC in Vashi. Our analysis is based on the data which shows that 80 to 85 per cent cases are from high-rise private buildings. Only 15-20 per cent cases are from slum areas," said T ward Assistant Commissioner Kishore Gandhi.

Until June 2, the number of cases in Mulund was 853, which has now risen to 2,305 out which 1,047 have recovered, 1,163 are being treated and 95 have died until June 28.

People gather around a vada pav stall in Indira Nagar, Mulund. Pics/Rajesh Gupta
People gather around a vada pav stall in Indira Nagar, Mulund. Pics/Rajesh Gupta

"We have sealed 656 buildings. Earlier, the proportion of cases in these buildings was only around 20 per cent of the total. It is now 80-85 per cent," Gandhi said.

The doubling rate in Mulund has also increased from 20 to 12 days. Considering the current trend, Mulund could become one of the worst-hit areas.

A duo without masks walks in Sambhaji Raje ground in Mulund East
A duo without masks walks in Sambhaji Raje ground in Mulund East

"Right after relaxations in the lockdown, cases were reported from SRA buildings first. Now they are under control. But every high-rise has four to five cases. We cannot restrict the movement of everyone in societies that have over 100 flats. We don't know how to control people continuously stepping out for work," Gandhi added.

Another reason for T ward's increasing cases is the residing health workers. As per BMC officials, most of the health workers such as nurses, ward boys and doctors live in Mulund area. "Every day, we see around four to five health workers getting infected. They are working at various hospitals across the city and some go to Thane as well," Gandhi said.

People play cricket in Ramgad Nagar, Mulund
People play cricket in Ramgad Nagar, Mulund

Lack of seriousness
Apart from BMC's claims, the other reason for the trend is perhaps people's lack of seriousness with regard to the pandemic. mid-day visited several Containment Zones (CZ) in the T ward where people were seen without masks, not observing social distancing norms, riding bikes along with a pillion rider, going for walks in gardens. Some even stepped out of buildings that have active cases. There are 53 CZs in T ward.

The Vardhman Nagar residential society has nine active cases and the society has several buildings. The sealed banner of the civic body was displayed at the gate. Yet, people were emerging from the buildings without masks.

Ramgad Nagar is another CZ with 63 active cases. Here, people without masks were playing cricket on the road, some were walking in groups, and some were riding bikes. There was no police presence. A similar scene was witnessed at Indira Nagar 3, a slum people had gathered around a vada pav stall.

However, Gandhi said that no cases have been reported from Ramgad Nagar for the past five consecutive days and from Indira Nagar slums for 15 days.

Low contact-tracing
Contact-tracing in T ward also seems to be low compared to other wards. While the civic chief has instructed to trace at least 15 close contacts, the T ward is tracing one to five close contacts. "Since most of the cases are reported from high-rises and their close contacts are being home-quarantined, we don't take them to the isolation centres as they can quarantine themselves at home. Only people who live in slums and don't have space are being taken to isolation centres," said Gandhi.

Political interference
BMC officials who have sealed several areas in the suburb are saying that they also face political interference as a large number of people from CZs, specifically from the slums, are writing to them with help of local politicians and pressuring them to open CZs despite active cases. "People from Ramgad and Indira Nagar and other slum pockets have protested to declare their respective areas as non-CZs with the help of local leaders. In such areas, people are not following the guidelines which may again lead to an increase in positive cases," a BMC officer said on condition of anonymity.

853 No. of cases in Mulund until June 2

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