COVID-19 in Mumbai: What went wrong in Malad-Dahisar belt
Chokepoints and narrow passages created by BMC's containment drive, civic hospitals ignoring symptomatic patients in late May, and casual attitude of residents have combined to send the infection rate in north Mumbai pockets spiralling
The northern part of the city, especially slum pockets in Malad and Dahisar, have seen a sudden surge in cases since Unlock 1.0. Team mid-day's visit to the areas revealed some major reasons behind the spike — narrow spaces, absence of social distancing, roaming the markets without face masks, breaking home-quarantine rules, keeping shops open with shutters half closed and BMC's reluctance to provide the right line of treatment.
The locals of Appapada, Kajupada, Pimpri Pada, Kranti Nagar, Daulat Nagar, Nancy Colony and many other slum pockets told mid-day that the BMC sealed the lanes leading to local markets in their vicinity in March.
"Metallic sheets were put up at the entry and exit points so that movement of people could be largely reduced. A narrow 2-feet space has been kept for people to move in and out. Our hutments are by the roadside where people gather around vegetable vendors in large numbers every day," said Balaram Sawant from Appapada.
Chokepoints creating problems
Talking about why the number of cases suddenly increased in his area, Sawant said, "This is a slum area and people are not ready to abide by government rules. Social distancing is not followed. People move out for shopping without face masks."
BMC health workers on their way to conduct check-ups at Appapada in Kurar Village, Malad, on Wednesday
Local doctors also agree that people have not been following social distancing norms and the chokepoints and narrow passages were leading to the spread of the virus.
"Many people work at city hospitals as ward boys or sanitary staff. A few of them had been suggested home quarantine, but instead they would roam in the markets. They would also sit together at public places and meet people as well. Nobody knows whether the areas they used to touch were sanitised," said Dr. Nilesh Shejwal from Devki Nagar chawl, which connects with Appapada in Malad East.
Residents pass through narrow passages at entry and exit points in Appapada, Malad
"The narrow spaces between the metallic sheets become chokepoints when a lot of people are out for shopping. Chances of the virus spreading from these chokepoints are very high as those in home quarantine also move out," added Dr. Shejwal. "I will recommend symptomatic patients to visit BMC hospitals and get COVID-19 tests done. Even the civic doctors were never serious about the symptomatic patients. They used to send them back after prescribing antibiotics instead of asking them to visit hospitals," he said.
'Civic docs not bothered'
"When a fellow doctor, who was symptomatic, visited Shatabdi hospital, the doctors there sent him back without taking any swab samples. Thankfully he visited a private hospital and underwent a test, the report for which was positive. Thereafter, civic officials admitted him to one of the isolation wards," said Dr Shejwal.
He further said, "Public toilets have also played a major role in the spread of the virus, as people are bound to use them. They were not being sanitised properly."
Speaking to mid-day, Dr. Kedarnath Pal said, "During the initial days people were not following rules. Shops were opened up, people roamed without masks and social distancing was not followed. Whenever the police patrolled the area, they would hide in their houses and immediately come out after they left."
"As the COVID-19 cases have increased, many houses and lanes in Appapada have been sealed by the BMC. The cops are regularly patrolling the area to see whether all the shops, barring those selling essentials, are shut," Dr. Pal added. However, a woman present at Dr. Pal's clinic said, "Had the cops been vigilant since the beginning of the pandemic, the cases would not have increased rapidly. Even today some shops are opened with half shutter down. I don't believe that the cops are not aware of this." Bhaskar Khursange, husband of corporator Riddhi Khursange, said a large number of chawls, including Daulat Nagar, Abhinavnagar, Kajupada, Nancy Colony, Mahindra and Mahindra, were located on a 100-acre land in Dahisar East connected to the Borivli National Park. "There are about 150 cases in these chawls. Kajupada is the worst affected among these chawls as 125 cases have been detected there," he added.
'People thronged fish markets'
He further said, "There were no cases in Dahisar East till May 31 but when the wine shops opened up, people gathered to purchase liquor and the virus started to spread as social distancing was not followed. Locals were also seen roaming without masks. Above all, public toilets have played a major role in the spread of the infection."
The slum pockets of Madh, Malwani Church, Rathodi area, NCC, OCC and others in Malad West have also seen a huge surge in cases after May 31. Local residents said people would throng fish markets in large numbers.
"There were hardly any cases in these areas but after the lockdown was lifted, people started to visit fish markets and then 35 people were found to be positive. Through contact tracing it was learnt that they had gone to the fish markets," said a localward number 1 covering Ganpat Patil Nagar, Kandarpada and IC Colony in Dahisar West has a total of 48 positive cases.
'People are not scared'
Speaking to mid-day, corporator of the ward, Abhishek Ghosalkar said, "Earlier, on an average each week we would have one positive case but now that has gone up to four. The reason behind this is that people are not scared anymore. They come out on the roads thinking that the pandemic is over. But many from the low income group also feel helpless because they have to run their businesses."
The cops have tightened their vigil on the northern part of the city. Sources said the police stations in the area were registering 10 cases for violating lockdown rules on a daily basis.
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