COVID-19: As Maharashtra relaxes lockdown, does Mumbai have enough beds?

Updated: Jun 01, 2020, 12:14 IST | Dharmendra Jore, Prajakta Kasale, Pallavi Smart | Mumbai

As state govt releases set of guidelines, city may have to wait for final BMC order; meanwhile, questions abound about availability of beds

MMRDA is building a 750-bed COVID Care Centre at Dahisar check naka. Pic/Satej Shinde
MMRDA is building a 750-bed COVID Care Centre at Dahisar check naka. Pic/Satej Shinde

The state on Sunday issued guidelines for a calibrated unlocking of activities. Naming its plan 'Mission Begin Again', the government said certain restrictions would continue in red zones like Mumbai. Meanwhile, with lockdown easing and cases expected to rise, BMC does not seem to have beds ready and the common man continues to run around for them. mid-day found that places meant to be converted into CCC2 have not even been inspected.

Even the claim of readiness of almost 30,000 beds for mild symptomatic COVID-19 positive patients in Corona Care Centres 2 seems to be only on paper.

A volunteer with an NGO sanitises the bags and hands of migrant workers outside CSMT where they took a train to their hometown on Sunday. Pic/Ashish Raje
A volunteer with an NGO sanitises the bags and hands of migrant workers outside CSMT where they took a train to their hometown on Sunday. Pic/Ashish Raje

But, BMC officials said the centres will be ready within a day after beds are put in place.

Ambulances are making the rounds of hospitals and in many cases, have even taken patients back to their homes due to the lack of beds. The picture is the same as it was 15 days back. Last week, Municipal Commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said that the BMC is ready with 44,000 beds, of which 14,000 are in hospitals and 30,000 are in CCC2 – for asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic patients. But as mid-day found, few of the centres have started and most are only on paper without even inspection of site.

The list included 225 centres such as Hindu Gymkhana at Marine Lines with a capacity for 1,000 beds and another 1,000 beds centre at Somaiya Ground, Chembur. "There isn't much space in the gymkhana buildings to have more than 100 beds," said Rita Makwana, corporator from Girgaon.

The BMC may not have a centre on the Somaiya ground in the monsoon, it is looking at the Kurla ST depot for this. Pic/Atul Kamble
The BMC may not have a centre on the Somaiya ground in the monsoon, it is looking at the Kurla ST depot for this. Pic/Atul Kamble

"Centres on open space will be an issue in monsoon. So we may drop the centre at Somaiya ground. Instead, the BMC is looking for a centre in Kurla ST depot, the decision will be taken in the next week," said an officer with L ward.

'Potential centres identified'
"The BMC has identified potential centres which can house over 29,000 beds. Whenever a centre needs to be ready, the beds are put up just one day before. Identifying a suitable location and keeping it available with the ward officers takes more time, but it has already been done," said Ashwini Bhide, additional municipal commissioner.

She added, "The BMC is monitoring the situation. In the past one month around 4,000 symptomatic cases have been in CCC2. With regular discharge, the present activated capacity is adequate at the moment. Whenever there is a requirement the next lot will be activated. The ultimate capacity, 29,442, is clearly identified."

However, people have their doubts. "There are many mild symptomatic patients waiting for treatment and BMC is not admitting them in the centres. The BMC is hiding the truth and it will turn into a major tragedy. There are many places BMC hasn't inspected. How will they turn them into centres within one day?" said Prabhakar Shinde, group leader of BJP in the BMC.

Waiting to hear from BMC
The civic body has declared a list of educational institutions to create quarantine facilities, but it hasn't taken charge of many private institutions for this either. While some have refused to lend their premises, others are waiting to hear from the civic body after a first discussion.

Fr. Francis Swamy, principal of the St. Mary's School in Mazgaon, told mid-day, "The BMC approached us for the Mazgaon School. But there are many priests staying in that campus who are above 90 years old. So we requested the BMC to instead use our other school in Dhobi Talao. While the civic body agreed, there is no communication from them after one visit to our Dhobi Talao School." Ruia College in Matunga is also on the list. But Dr Anushree Lokur, principal of the college, said, "There is no discussion with the BMC. Moreover we do not have such big halls for this service."

Khalsa College has wholeheartedly agreed to open its doors for the civic body. "We have had a discussion with BMC and few rooms are finalised," said Dr Kiran Mangaonkar, principal of the college.

Containment zones (CZs) will have no relaxations at all. Some additional activities will be allowed from June 3, June 5 and June 8 in a phased manner.

People can take up outdoor physical activities and avail of technicians and garage services. All markets and shops, except malls and market complexes will be allowed to function. From June 8, all private offices will be able to operate with up to 10 per cent employee strength. For Mumbai, the BMC will come up with a separate order based on the state guidelines because the civic body will have to inform people about the activities allowed and also the demarcated containment zones. If the entire area that comes under BMC's jurisdiction is treated as a single containment zone, then the unlocking order will not apply in Mumbai.

In its Sunday order, the state government took a different position from the Centre by asking religious places and places of worship to remain shut. Even shopping malls, restaurants, barber shops, spas, salons, beauty parlours, hotels and other hospitality services will not open up. Apart from this, schools, colleges, educational, training and coaching institutions will remain shut. International air travel (except as permitted by MHA), Metro rail services, passenger movement by trains and domestic air travel, unless specifically allowed through separate orders and standard operating procedure (SOP), will not be allowed to operate. Also, cinema halls, gymnasiums, swimming pools, entertainment parks, theatres, bars and auditoriums, assembly halls and similar places, social, political/sports/ entertainment/academic/cultural/religious functions and large congregations will not be allowed. Easing of restrictions and opening up of these activities will be done in a phased manner, said an order issued by chief secretary Ajoy Mehta.

Municipal/district authorities will demarcate CZs. The municipal commissioners in corporation areas and district collectors are empowered to decide the CZs. The CZs will be residential colonies, mohalla, slum, building, group of buildings, lane, ward, police station area, villages, small cluster of villages etc. Anything larger than this (whole taluka and municipal corporation) can be declared as a CZ only after consultation with the chief secretary.

Mission Begin Again

Coronavirus Lockdown 5.0 What's allowed & not allowed in Maharashtra

Easing of restrictions and phase-wise opening
In municipal corporations of MMR Region, including BMC, Pune, Solapur, Aurangabad, Malegaon, Nashik, Dhule, Jalgaon, Akola, Amravati and Nagpur following activities are additionally permitted with restrictions and in phases, except containment zones. This is in addition to the activities already allowed and permitted.

Phase I – from June 3
. Outdoor physical activities.

. Individual physical exercises like cycling/jogging/running/walking shall be permitted at public open spaces, including beaches, public/private playgrounds, grounds belonging to societies/institutions, gardens and promenades with following conditions. No activities will be permitted in enclosed areas or indoor stadium.

1) These activities will be allowed between 5 am to 7 pm.
2) No group activity will be permitted. However, adults should accompany children.
3) People are advised to stay outdoors only for the purposes of physical activities.
4) No other activity permitted.
5) People are permitted to use only nearby/neighbourhood open spaces. Long distance travel will not be permitted.
6) People are advised to avoid crowded open spaces. They are actively encouraged to use cycling as a form of physical exercise as it ensures social distancing.

. Plumbers, electricians, pest-control and technicians can operate by following social distancing and sanitisation norms and using masks.

. Garages to mend vehicles and workshops can function with prior appointments.

. All government offices (excluding emergency, health and medical services, treasuries, disaster management, police, NIC, food and civil supply, FCI, NYK, municipal services, who can operate as per need), will function at 15 per cent strength or minimum 15 employees, whichever is more.

Phase II – from June 5
All markets, market areas and shops, except malls and market complexes, are allowed to function (shops on one side of the road/lane/passage to be opened on odd dates while shops on the other side on even dates) from 9 am to 5 pm with following conditions.

. The use of trial rooms in the shops will not be permitted for clothes, apparels and similar items. Similarly, exchange policy and return policy will not apply.

. The shopkeepers will be responsible for ensuring that social distancing norms are followed in the shops and measures such as foot markings on the floor, token system, home delivery etc are taken.

. People are advised to walk/to use cycles for shopping purposes and to visit nearby/neighbourhood markets. Long-distance travel for non-essential items will not be permitted. Use of motorised vehicles for shopping will be strictly discouraged.

If any failure in following social distancing norms is seen, the authorities will immediately close such shops/markets.

Movement of people
Taxi/cab aggregator (only essential work) I + 2
Rickshaw (only essential work) I + 2
Four-wheeler (only essential work) 1+ 2
Two-wheeler (only essential work) one rider

Phase III – from June 8
. Private offices can operate with up to 10 per cent strength as per requirement, with the remaining staff working from home. However, employers will have to conduct sensitisation programmes to educate staff about taking precautions on returning home so that those who are vulnerable, especially the elderly, are not infected.
No permission is needed from government authorities for permitted activities.

. Outdoor portion of sports complexes and stadia and other open public spaces will be permitted to remain open for individual exercises strictly following social distancing norms, however, spectators and group activities will not be allowed.

. All public and private transport will follow passenger management:
. Intra-district bus services will be allowed with maximum 50 per cent capacity per bus.
. All markets/shops will remain open from 9 am to 5 pm. If crowding is seen authorities will immediately close down such shops/markets.

Activities as per SOPs
. Authorities will allow inter-state and intra-state movement of medical professionals, nurses and paramedical staff, sanitation personnel and ambulances, without any restriction. However, inter-state and inter-district movement of people will be regulated.

. The movement of stranded labourers, migrant workers, pilgrims, tourists, Shramik Special trains and seafarers will continue to be regulated as per SOPs issued.

. All authorities shall allow inter-state movement of goods/cargo, including empty trucks.

. Authorities should not stop the movement of any type of goods/cargo for cross land-border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries.

. Night curfew prohibits the movement of individuals from 9 pm to 5 am except for essential activities.

No. of beds BMC claims to be ready within CCC2

As of May 30

. 50: No. of activated CCC2
. 6,425: No. of total beds here
. 4,222: No. of beds occupied
. 29,442: No. of beds in 225 centres as per the list of CCC2

Home delivery of newspapers from next Sunday

Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray made important announcements on Sunday, one of which was that newspapers will be home delivered from Sunday, June 7. Vendors will have to be protected against the infection by managements, he said. He also announced the scrapping of final year university examinations and said students will be promoted based on the average of previous semesters. He further said all districts will get state-of-the-art infection hospitals. He came down heavily on his political detractors for defaming the government. He appealed to the people to cooperate as they begin their lives afresh and follow caution.

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