Navi Mumbai: How the Turbhe pattern beat COVID-19

Updated: Jul 01, 2020, 07:46 IST | Anurag Kamble | Mumbai

Dedicated contact tracing and isolation, massive penalties, education of citizens and the filter provided by GPs bring cases down in Turbhe, which was once a Containment Zone

Health workers and police in Turbhe
Health workers and police in Turbhe

Turbhe in Navi Mumbai, which was once a Containment Zone with 30 to 40 cases being reported every day, seems to have successfully tackled COVID-19 with not a single case detected in the past 10 days and no deaths in the past 14 days.

With a population of around 2 lakh mostly living in slums, strategic planning and dedication of the Navi Mumbai Municipal Corporation (NMMC) have established a 'Turbhe pattern'.

Turbhe is located near Thane-Belapur Road. When the pandemic began, it hit Turbhe first in Navi Mumbai. With the APMC market located nearby, it had more cases as compared to other Navi Mumbai areas. "Every day, there were 30 to 40 cases. At some point, it touched 50 a day too. This led to the closing of the APMC market for a week in May," said an NMMC Official. "We needed to do something strategic and focused on tackling the issue. Otherwise, it could have become a catastrophic situation." The area includes Turbhe Stores, Pawne Gaon, Indira Nagar and some part of Sanpada.

Health workers and police in Turbhe
Health workers and police in Turbhe

"We first started with contact-tracing. For every single patient found in the area, we traced 26 close contacts in the preceding 14 days. We kept a record of more people the person might have met but the focus was on the 26 close ones," said Dr. Kailash Gaikwad, health officer at Turbhe. "We would call such close contacts at least once and get updates on their health."

High density of population
Another hurdle the NMMC faced was of institutional quarantine. Since the area has a high-density population, officials decided to put more people in institutional quarantine. Also, residents in 100 homes located near positive patients' homes were thoroughly screened. This broke the chain of the spread of the virus.

Since the houses are closely packed, people would come out and gather at several places. This had to be tackled by the Navi Mumbai police along with civic and health officials who regularly visited the places. Police fined half the population for violations and educated and counselled the rest about the pandemic and its effects on families. This stopped the gatherings.

"We had formed 70 teams for the area. Initially, we penalised people for not wearing a mask or venturing outside unnecessarily. I think we collected over R2 lakh in fines. But this improved compliance among people," said Assistant Municipal Commissioner Sameer Jadhav. "Then people started communicating, they told us of the difficulties they are facing and what they want from us. Then beating the pandemic became a mass movement."

According to NMMC officials, the doubling rate has also gone down to 64 days. Turbhe has so far had 1,025 COVID-19 cases of which 890 were discharged after recovery, 189 are active and 46 resulted in death.

Role of GPs vital
NMMC officials told mid-day that the role of General Practitioners (GP) is absolutely important. NMMC encouraged GPs to open their clinics and screen patients. This reduced the burden on the corporation and added a filter to the patients. "GPs started referring only patients with COVID-19 like symptoms. Otherwise, every person with a fever and cold used to demand tests. As GPs educated the residents, it reduced cases as well," said Dr. Gaikwad.

Strategy a gamechanger
"The 'Turbhe pattern' is the best example of how COVID-19 can be defeated through testing, tracing and isolation. It was once a Containment Zone, but now the spread has decreased significantly. We are implementing the same strategy in other zones in Navi Mumbai with a high number of cases," said Annasaheb Misal, NMMC chief.

Rs 2lakh
Approx. amount of fines collected for lockdown violations

No. of consecutive days since which no new cases have been reported

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