Mumbai lockdown: When can we have workers in our buildings?,' ask housing societies

Updated: Jun 05, 2020, 07:37 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

With neither co-op department nor BMC giving any clarity, city's housing societies confused, as partial relaxations begin

B B Shetty, a resident of Oshiwara Shantivan CHS Ltd, Andheri West, gets his tempera-ture checked
B B Shetty, a resident of Oshiwara Shantivan CHS Ltd, Andheri West, gets his tempera-ture checked

THE lack of guidelines from the state co-operative department or even BMC, have left housing societies confused about letting in maids, newspaper vendors, mechanics, etc, as the lockdown is slowly lifted. A few plush areas in the city have been making workers wear PPE suits.

Ashoka Tower on S S Rao Road, Parel, has made it mandatory for them to procure a PPE suit from the society office, before letting them inside. The flat owner has to pay for the same to the society. Former Director General of Police (Maharashtra) D G Sivanandhan, who stays in Ashoka Towers said, "Our society has incorporated this practice since the outbreak of the pandemic in the larger interest of welfare of the residents. A sum of R300 is charged for the PPE from the flat owner who is visited by an outside technical person. We have in-house technical support staff like electricians, plumbers etc, and they stay within the society premises. Also the security guards are allowed to stay within the complex. We have 25 lifts and each has hand sanitisers etc. in place. We do not encourage any visitors or housemaids which will continue, even after the lockdown is lifted, till the time the society office bearers and residents think otherwise"

'PPE suits for technicians'

Another society in Lokhandwala Complex, Andheri (W) has also made wearing PPE suits compulsory for those coming from outside for repair work, besides having their temperature taken on digital thermometers, and their oxygen level on pulse oximeters, said Dr Wiqar Shaikh, senior allergy and asthma specialist, whose patients stay in the society. But health experts feel this is not required, as the security guards are not trained to use such gadgets and PPE suits are to be used by front line warriors treating COVID-19 patient

Chartered Accountant B B Shetty, a resident of Oshiwara Shantivan Chs Ltd, said, "Most societies in our area, even ours, have made it mandatory to get the temperature of outsiders and even residents checked. We have barred housemaids, vendors from the premises, which will continue for few weeks before restricted entries are allowed."

Dr Wiqar Shaikh, added, "Several cooperative societies in Mumbai have asked their security personnel to check the temperature of even residents. The body temperature of the visitor and residents is measured using digital thermometer pointed to the forehead of the person. The normal human temperature is 98.4 degree Fahrenheit or 37 degree Celsius."

Security not trained

He added, "I have noticed, in several societies and supermarkets, where my own temperature is checked, it is sometimes 83 degree Fahrenheit or 85 degree Fahrenheit. This means that the digital thermometer has not been calibrated properly and the security personnel are not trained in the use of these thermometers. Certain societies have also implemented the use of pulse oximeters, in which oxygen concentration in the capillaries is measured."

Ashoka Tower at Parel has made it mandatory for outside technicians to procure a PPE suit before letting them inside. File pic
Ashoka Tower at Parel has made it mandatory for outside technicians to procure a PPE suit before letting them inside. File pic

Dr Shaikh said the normal oxygen concentration should be 95 percent to 100 per cent, any reading below 90-95 per cent requires investigation, and below 90 per cent indicates hypoxia (low oxygen concentration) and requires urgent medical attention. "I have noticed in several societies, the SpO2 machines, like the digital thermometer, are also not calibrated. Such measurements defeat the whole purpose," he said. He also pointed out that the insistence of some housing societies that outside technicians wear PPE suits is wastage, as these suits are more required in a critical care unit.

'Have some relaxation'

Dr Om Shrivastav, an infectious disease expert, has a different view. He said, "Co-operative societies will need to come up with some relaxations to allow domestic help, and other service providers while taking basic precautions. These include maintaining social distance, hand sanitising and ensuring those who enter maintain hygiene practices always, and wear masks. It is also a good practice to have a pulse oximeter at home or in the society, especially if there are senior citizens in the family."

Mangal Kamble, founder president of Swach Kharghar Foundation (SKF) said, "We feel that co-operative societies should decide on relaxation norms, keeping in mind safety, especially since we have to live with COVID-19 for a while. It is also a fact that the housemaids and other staff (driver, gardeners, laundry men etc) are daily wage earners who need to be supported, and protected."

A senior officer from the State Co-operative Department said, "The department does not have a role in this, nor does the Maharashtra Co-operative Society Act has any mention of a pandemic outbreak. This is the first time we all are dealing with such an incident. The disaster management or BMC might have some clarity on this."

However, a senior official from the state Disaster Management Cell said, "We play a macro role in prevention and rescue operations in case of a disaster and have nothing to do with cooperative societies."

A BMC official said the issue was not in their ambit and housing societies will have to decide what to do.

Lawyer speak

Senior Advocate Vinod Sampat, founder president of Residents' Association, said, "Co-operative society office bearers are framing irrational rules as per their whims and fancies. The chief minister, or home minister, or co-operative department, or BMC are not coming out with any guidelines to be followed by the co-operative societies post lockdown. The least societies can do is, frame rules with the help of doctors, or those with experience related to the health care industry."

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