When Covid-19 pandemic gripped India, Mumbai’s Dharavi, one of the world’s most densely populated areas and one of Asia’s largest slums, soon became a Coronavirus hotspot.
However, on Tuesday, Mumbai’s Coronavirus cluster reported just one fresh case, in three months, proving it’s well on its way to flattening the curve. For a region that houses 6.5 lakh people in an area of 2.5 kilometers, this is a notable achievement indeed.
Of the total 2,335 cases reported from Dharavi, 1,734 people have been cured. Currently, there remain only 352 active cases. In Dharavi’s success lays a lesson for the rest of India.
If an area where social distancing is a luxury that its residents can’t afford, can control the pandemic, what’s stopping the rest of India from following suit?
Dharavi’s success story required continuous cooperation between BMC, Mumbai Police, local hospitals, and NGOs.
From the time the first case from Dharavi was reported–ten days into the lockdown–the concerned parties rose to the occasion. Because it was of utmost importance to control the spread in an area where a one-room house is a home to 7 to 8 people.
According to India Today, Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of BMC, shared the three key areas they focused on – aggressive testing, timely separation of suspected citizens, and disinfection of public places.
Our priority was proactive screening ie, aggressive screening and testing. We conducted door-to-door screening of people. We ensured that private clinics, which had shut down due to panic, reopened and provided services. We also set up various fever clinics for early detection. Timely separation of suspected citizens from the community area was our priority. Another key area of focus was the disinfection of public toilets.
Moreover, sanitizers were installed in pubic washrooms, and BMC employed a team of 2,750 Corona Warriors, which included doctors, nurses, cleaners, and ward boys.
However, bringing Dharavi’s doubling rate to 44 days (as of June 2020, the national rate is at 15.4 days), was by no means an easy task. Many BMC employees and police officers were infected on the job, and two people (one police officer and one BMC officer) also lost their lives to the virus.
But the team continued with their tasks, until Dharavi, which reported 491 cases in April and 1,216 in May, only had 274 cases in June.
Because ensuring social distancing was a task set up for failure, the team continued with aggressive testing that allowed them to identify patients early on before they could spread the virus further.
Additionally, the team also took on the task of distributing groceries in containment zones, and converted schools, hostels, and lodges, into quarantine facilities for people.
But the Covid-19 pandemic is far from over. As the continuously rising cases signify, India has a long battle ahead, and masks, sanitizers, and social distancing are integral to our ‘new normal’. And in this ‘new normal’, taking a lesson from Dharavi’s plan of action seems like the right step ahead.