COVID-19 in Mumbai: Rising clusters in Sobo high-rises worry officials

Updated: Jun 29, 2020, 07:13 IST | Prajakta Kasale | Mumbai

With the number of sealed buildings in city more than doubling in the month since relaxation, BMC says focus needs to be on distancing, sanitisation

COVID-19 is spreading in Silver Arch Apts at Napean Sea Road. Pics/Bipin Kokate
COVID-19 is spreading in Silver Arch Apts at Napean Sea Road. Pics/Bipin Kokate

As COVID-19 continues to spread in the city's posh localities, the number of sealed residential buildings has doubled in a little over 30 days, while Containment Zones in slum pockets have increased slightly. The number of sealed buildings in the city rose to 5,646 on June 28 from 2,533 on May 23, according to the data provided by the BMC.

The number of cluster cases in high-rises has become a challenge for the BMC.

Everest Apartments off Peddar Road has been sealed by the BMC
Everest Apartments off Peddar Road has been sealed by the BMC

mid-day had earlier this month reported about the upward trend in COVID-19 cases in the city's housing societies, and a downward shift in the slums where the infections were once spiralling out of control. On June 21, mid-day published a report about two SoBo housing complexes -- Sagar Darshan at Breach Candy and Tahnee Heights on Nepean Sea Road -- reporting 32 cases within a week. Now, other societies nearby are also reporting cluster cases. As many as 30 people, including helpers and residents, have contracted the virus at Everest Apartments off Peddar Road.

The infection has also spread to Silver Arch on Nepean Sea Road, Mehr Apartments on Altamount Road and Tirupati Apartment on Warden Road. The cases have jumped in the residential buildings of Bandra, Dadar and Mahim as well.

Residents of Silver Arch Apartments on Nepean Sea Road collect parcels at the main gate, on Sunday
Residents of Silver Arch Apartments on Nepean Sea Road collect parcels at the main gate, on Sunday

In D ward alone, the BMC has sealed 203 buildings. "There is an increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in the residential buildings. What's common among them is that they allow house helps and drivers. If one tests positive, all the high-risk contacts are isolated and are asked to get tested," said Prashant Gaikwad, assistant commissioner of D ward.

With the cases rising, and the need for house help and drivers for the residents of the city's high-rises, the confusion on whether or not to allow them prevails. The state government had earlier issued a statement stating that no housing society can deny entry to house helps and drivers. They have taken several precautions, like installing foot-operated sanitiser dispenser and thermal screening, to avoid the spread of novel Coronavirus.

Cases have also been reported at Mehr Apartments on Altamount Road
Cases have also been reported at Mehr Apartments on Altamount Road

"We cannot deny entry to helpers as it is against the state government's notification, and there are members who need them. They need assistance with housework and while travelling to office. We are taking maximum precautions," said one of the committee members of a housing society in Malabar Hill.

Meanwhile, Dharavi, the biggest slum in the city that comes under G North ward, has been witnessing a declining trend of infections since the past two weeks.

But, the up-market areas of Dadar and Mahim in the ward are reporting more cases. The number of Containment Zones in the city on May 23 was 644, which slightly increased to 728 on June 26.

"The cases started increasing after the city reopened. We are shifting our focus to residential buildings from slums to stem the spread of the virus," said Kiran Dighavkar, assistant commissioner of G North ward.

Bandra West, which comes under H West ward, is facing the same issue. The overall growth rate of infections is higher in D and H West wards, as compared to South and South Central wards. While the COVID-19 cases in D wards are increasing at a rate of 2.1 per cent per day, the growth rate in H West ward is 2.6 per cent. The average growth rate of the city is 1.71 per cent.

While Vinayak Vispute, the assistant commissioner of H West Ward, was not available for comment, Asif Zackaria, corporator from Bandra West told mid-day, "The number of cases in buildings is surely more than that in the slums".

The housing societies as well as the BMC officials are in a quandary about handling the situation. Gaikwad told mid-day, "Though the number of cases has increased, most of the patients are asymptomatic and residents are staying indoors. They have to take all the precautions, from physical distancing to sanitation. That is the key to keep the infection at bay."

2,533 No. of sealed residential buildings in city as of May 23

5,646 No. of sealed bldgs in city as of June 26

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