Mumbai

Authorities pull all stops to flatten curve

Taking no chances: Pune civic authorities are conducting over 800 tests a day.   | Photo Credit: Prashant Nakwe

With the total number of active COVID-19 positive cases in Pune district exceeding 750, the district and civic authorities have started an intensive screening drive to flatten the curve.

From reaching out to the highly-infected clusters through mobile medical vans to deploying police personnel and home guards alongside civic health authorities to carry out aggressive surveillance, healthcare staff and authorities of the Pimpri-Chinchwad and Pune civic bodies, and police officials, are pulling out all stops to break the chain of infection in the ‘red zones’ in the twin cities.

While Pune city has reported more than 700 cases and 50 deaths, Pimpri-Chinchwad, in stark contrast, has managed to rein in the spread, reporting 43 active cases and only a couple of deaths till now.

Speaking to The Hindu, Pimpri-Chinchwad Municipal Corporation (PCMC) Commissioner Shravan Hardikar attributed the containment to a comprehensive preventive medication strategy and aggressive surveillance drive in March when the first cases were reported.

“There were two major phases which contributed to a surge in positive cases in the PCMC — first, when a group of travellers returned from Dubai, and the second, after Nizamuddin Markaz attendees came back. When the Dubai travellers and their contacts led to a spike in 12 cases in the PCMC, we screened all international travellers displaying mild coronavirus-like symptoms,” Mr. Hardikar said. “As a result, we were able to home quarantine 1,500 people within seven days,” he said.

“These included people with a travel history to Dubai, Japan and the Philippines — cities and countries that had not featured in the Centre’s ‘most-affected countries’ list at that time. We appealed to people and took them into confidence by urging them to report cases of neighbours with travel history. Societies kept track of those who were directed to home quarantine. Those who flouted this were placed in isolation facilities,” he said.

While 10 of the first 12 patients were discharged by March-end, the PCMC administration faced another challenge in the form of those returning from the Tablighi Jamaat event.

“We had information on 23 returnees from the Delhi event of which two tested positive. In this instance, our field teams worked closely with community leaders to ensure containment. We still repeatedly test people within the PCMC’s designated containment zones to ensure that the number of cases remain in check,” Mr. Hardikar said.

He said the PCMC had opened special ‘fever clinics’ and at an early stage while using mobile medical units to screen more potential cases. “We had started 43 flu clinics to screen those showing symptoms of the virus, while five mobile units operated at the field level to check for more cases. We have 200 teams of PCMC healthcare staff and ASHA workers and have deployed more than 200 home guards to ensure the quarantine is being followed,” he said.

While there have been no fresh cases from within the PCMC in the last three days, the new cases are those of persons engaged in dispensing essential services in Pune city and returning home to PCMC later in the day.

The spike in COVID-19 positive cases is the result of intensive screening efforts and is to be expected before the curve can be flattened, say Pune district authorities.

In Pune city, more than 400 of the 700-odd cases have been reported from three highly-infected clusters in Pune including the old Peth area which forms the heart of the city, the Dhole-Patil road and the Kondhwa areas.

While the surge in cases in the city’s slum-clusters pose a serious challenge, authorities are confident of checking the spread with a more focused approach towards contact-tracing.

“We have commenced an intensive screening drive. We are catching more cases as we have started testing on a greater scale. We are targeting those clusters which are highly infected. So, this spike is in a sense good before the curve can be flattened,” Pune District Collector Naval Kishore Ram said.

Stating that more than 800 tests were being done in a day, he said as many as 1,000 PMC teams, each comprising three civic body members and a police constable were aggressively conducting surveillance of the afflicted five areas.

“Earlier, there were a number of unreported cases as many people tried to hide their symptoms. However, we have now started 74 flu clinics. We also visit chemist shops to check those buying paracetamol without prescription. We have directed such shops to alert us,” a senior PMC official said.

Mr. Ram said the mobile medical vans stationed in the city’s virus hotspots was also paying rich dividends with nearly 40 positive cases detected, and their contacts traced through this method.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 5:02:14 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/authorities-pull-all-stops-to-flatten-curve/article31410540.ece

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