Mumbai lockdown: Door-to-door screening failing in Malad hotspot

Updated: Jul 08, 2020, 10:28 IST | Samiullah Khan | Mumbai

Heath workers struggle as residents, petrified about being quarantined, refuse to comply

BMC workers leave after some residents of Ambojwadi, Malwani, refuse to be screened. Pic/Satej Shinde
BMC workers leave after some residents of Ambojwadi, Malwani, refuse to be screened. Pic/Satej Shinde

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation's (BMC) ambitious door-to-door screening drive in slum pockets to find symptomatic COVID-19 patients, seems to have fallen flat on its face in densely populated Malwani, Malad West. While local residents are not cooperating with the civic teams, some of them claimed the latter are not implementing the drive strictly.

This reporter, who accompanied them for few days, found volunteers appointed by the civic body were merely asking the slum dwellers if they wanted to get screened for symptoms associated with COVID-19, and if they got 'no' in response, they would go onto the next dwelling.

BMC workers leave after some residents of Ambojwadi, Malwani, refuse to be screened

But both sides can be blamed, for on learning about the civic team's visit in the area, a few slum dwellers were also seen locking their houses on the pretext of going to the market, to escape getting screened for COVID-19. In most of the slum pockets in Malwani, the residents have been putting off screening to avoid getting admitted to COVID hospitals in case they are found symptomatic. In Ambojwadi, the civic team walked off after locals refused to co-operate.

The civic teams are armed with temperature guns, oxymeters and a register to jot down the details of residents, but hardly a few pages are filled in their day-long arduous foot work in the slum areas of Malwani.

The civic teams conducted door-to-door screenings in several slum pockets such as Ambojwadi, where people did not co-operate. Pic/Satej Shinde
The civic teams conducted door-to-door screenings in several slum pockets such as Ambojwadi, where people did not co-operate. Pic/Satej Shinde

Fear of quarantine centres
This reporter spoke to many local residents and learnt that people are scared to get quarantined in civic facilities where they feel hygiene is a big issue. A few of them have told mid-day that through various media – social media, newspapers and TV channels - they have learnt that the washrooms, hospital beds, floors, etc are in filthy conditions and fear they will fall sick if they get admitted to these hospitals, quarantine facilities or isolation wards. In some cases, the locals were found picking up fights with the health teams, which ended with the local police intervening.

Seema Singh, a resident, said, "We have heard the quarantine centres are filthy and fear we will fall sick if we get admitted there. Also, the door-to-door screenings should have been done at the beginning of the pandemic. It is too late now. The civic teams are only filling up their diaries for the sake of announcing that door-to-door screening at Malwani has been done."

A doctor said some residents of the slums have produced forged reports saying they tested negative but in BMC records, they had tested positive. She said they are adamant about not co-operating with the BMC.
A doctor said some residents of the slums have produced forged reports saying they tested negative but in BMC records, they had tested positive. She said they are adamant about not co-operating with the BMC.

'People not co-operating'
The civic body has also started testing fever camps at various locations, which local residents are encouraged to visit to get screened. But this too seems to have failed because people are not turning up in large numbers.

The doctors are finding it difficult to convince the slum dwellers to cooperate with them though the initiative has been taken to safeguard everyone in this global health crisis. "People are not cooperating in some areas. We have asked them to visit the testing fever camps with their Aadhaar cards but few of them turn up without any documents and few others gave wrong details like address, mobile numbers, etc." said Dr Sufiya Shaikh, in-charge of BMC's health post number 2 at Malwani.

Nine people to be traced
"If someone is found symptomatic, we take their samples for the COVID test and if the report is positive, we inform our teams to isolate the patient immediately. But if the address and other details are deliberately given incorrect by the person, it becomes a herculean task for us to track him/her down immediately. Till now there are nine such patients, who have given incorrect credentials to us and they have tested positive for COVID-19. We are struggling to trace them," added Dr Shaikh. A local social worker, Tophail Khan, has been helping civic teams track down the missing nine people.

The civic teams have conducted door-to-door screenings in several slum pockets of Malwani including Azmi Nagar, Rathodi, MHB colony, Mhada, old and new collector compound and at present efforts are underway at Ambojwadi, and Kharodi.

Dr Shaikh said, "'Apart from conducting door-to-door screenings, we are also spreading awareness among people. Many of them refuse to cooperate with us. Some of them have produced forged reports of COVID-19 saying they tested negative but in our records, they had tested positive. Our teams tried to convince them to cooperate with us for isolating them, but they were adamant not to help us. In such cases we have to take the help of Malwani police as the crowd swells to stand against our team members."

The BMC Surveillance Health Inspector, Sandesh Purandare, told mid-day that local residents have been "misguided." "They are unaware of what will happen to them if they go to a COVID hospital. We were doing door-to-door screening near Moinia Masjid. But the local residents protested and when the situation deteriorated, we had to call the police."

Some glad about move
However, some locals, such as Sarita Jaiswal welcomed the door-to-door screenings and testing fever camps in Malwani. "The BMC has done something good for us in this global health crisis. We must cooperate with the civic teams who have risked their lives to safeguard us," she said.

Her neighbour, Noorjahan Shaikh said, "I am suffering from hypertension and my husband is diabetic. We have been indoors since the lockdown and were scared to go to the hospital to get our medicines. I was really scared that if I test positive I would be sent to an isolation ward. But my screening was done and I was not symptomatic, nor is my husband. We must cooperate with the civic teams." Shaikh further added that many pregnant women have returned to their hometowns in Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, "because it is mandatory to get COVID test done at the time of delivery."

Another local resident, Sameer Khan said, "It is really sad that most people believe in rumours. It is also the responsibility of government bodies to spread awareness in slum pockets."

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