Cases Drop But Dharavi Still on Alert, Continues Battling COVID-19

From over 2 dozen cases daily, Asia’s largest slum reduced the number of cases recorded daily to single digits.

Published
COVID-19
3 min read
Health workers wearing protective suits screen resident of Kumbharwada during a house-to-house health survey.
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Around July 2020, Mumbai’s Dharavi set an example for the world by effectively tackling the COVID-19 crisis head on. From over two dozen cases daily, Asia’s largest slum reduced the number of cases recorded daily to almost single digits. A status check on the area on Thursday, 19 November, revealed, the momentum undertaken by the local civic body officials and private doctors has not slackened.

As of 18 November, Dharavi has reported a total of 3,626 COVID-19 cases, with eight active cases. The death toll stands at 311 and the number of recoveries stand at 3,307 till date. BMC Assistant Municipal Commissioner of G North Ward, Kiran Dighavkar, expects the number of active cases to fall further in a day or so.

“We are all focusing on testing, screening and the My Family, My Responsibility scheme. So, we are aiming to revisit every house twice to check oxygen levels and health status of each and every individual in the family. That’s what we did in April and May, which was unlike other wards. In Dharavi, we did door to door survey with the help of private doctors.”
Kiran Dighavkar, BMC Assistant Municipal Commissioner of G North Ward 
A fever camp set up in Dharavi.
A fever camp set up in Dharavi.
(Photo Courtesy: Gulzar Khan)

Enforcing Public Awareness Paid Off

The Maharashtra government began the ‘My family, my responsibility’ campaign in September where health officials and volunteers undertake door-to-door survey. NGOs too have been roped in to help government officials with the campaign. Spreading awareness among the residents for the last 8 months is paying off now, believes Dr Anil Pachnekar, who has been practicing in the areas for 35 years now.

“The kind of public awareness that is created among people about social distancing, washing hands, wearing masks is paying off. This is what is controlling the situation in Dharavi unlike other areas in the city,” he said.

“Dharavi is one of the most downtrodden areas, but they are showing the lowest number of cases and we are the eyewitnesses of this because patients come to us daily. Earlier, patients used to come to us in the last stage when their oxygen levels were low, severe cough and cold, with pneumonia. But now, because of awareness, patients come to us immediately as they experience fever, loss of taste and smell. Then it’s very easy to investigate and treat them.”
Dr Anil Pachnekar 
Health care workers conduct door-to-door survey in Dharavi
Health care workers conduct door-to-door survey in Dharavi
Photo: PTI

Dharavi recorded an average of five COVID-19 cases in November, much lower than other areas in the city. The highest number of cases recorded in a single day this month was on 2 November, when 11 people tested positive. The lowest number of cases were recorded on 4, 5, 10, 15 and 16 November, with just a single case on these specific days.

When put into perspective, Mumbai has a total of 8,658 active COVID cases as of 18 November.

“There was a buzz that since migrants have left Dharavi, the numbers have reduced but that claim was not correct because many migrants returned, factories started and now the routine has started but there is no major spike as such in numbers. There was an increase in numbers but not a sudden spike. It is settling down and right now things look normal. We are hoping there will be no spike in numbers due to Diwali,” said Kiran Dighavkar.

Private doctors, however, don’t rule out the probability of a sharp spike due to the recent festive season.

“At the end of the day it’s a question of securing a livelihood. People have started going outside their houses and at the same time there were festivals like Ganesh Chaturthi, Ramzan, now Diwali so we are expecting that numbers could increase because of overcrowding. That’s why a second wave might strike, otherwise things are under control. Let’s hope for the best.”
Dr Anil Pachnekar 
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