With coronavirus ( COVID-19 ) claiming its first victim in Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum is a hotspot. On Wednesday, Dharavi reported its first case, a 56-year-old garment shop owner from Baliga Nagar, and the person died on the same day.
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Mumbai Police are checking whether he had come in contact with anyone from Tablighi Jamaat. He had no history of foreign travel. Deputy Commissioner of Police (Zone V) Niyati Thaker said, “The person had another house in the same area and it seems some members of Tablighi Jamaat were staying there. Some other members of the Jamaat were also staying in a local mosque. We are verifying.”
Another positive case
Meanwhile, Dharavi reported another positive case on Thursday. A surgeon from Wockhardt Hospital and resident of the area tested positive for COVID-19. The 35-year-old’s swab sample was tested by a private lab. The doctor himself called the BMC and informed them of the matter. He will be admitted to Raheja Hospital. Wockhardt is also under the COVID-19 spell as many healthcare staff members are in quarantine and two nurses have tested positive.
Besides, a 52-year-old conservancy worker from Worli also tested positive on Wednesday. He is a resident of Worli’s Jijamata Nagar, another hotspot. The man was on duty in Dharavi until Monday when he developed symptoms. He was immediately relieved and sent for testing. His test came positive on Thursday. He is admitted to SevenHills Hospital. The man’s 23 co-workers have been placed under home quarantine.
“We do not know if the person contracted the virus in Worli or Dharavi. Since the first Dharavi patient was tested positive a week after he developed symptoms, it is possible that the sweeper contracted it in Dharavi. His co-workers are under home quarantine,” said assistant municipal commissioner of G North ward Kiran Dighavkar.
Even though Baliga Nagar is at one end of Dharavi, particularly in Shahu Nagar, there are concerns related to Asia’s largest slum becoming a hotbed. The slum, spread over 613 hectares and with population running in lakhs, has single or multi-storey houses located in narrow lanes and common toilets, making social distancing impossible. Besides, Dharavi is home to hundreds of small and medium sized manufacturing units of garments, leather goods, jewellery and employ a large number of migrant workers who also live in the same area. With the lockdown, a large number of residents do not have enough in savings to sustain themselves and depend on the government to provide for them. The area also has a large number of TB patients with compromised immunity and every monsoon, it sees a spurt in cases of dengue, malaria, leptospirosis and such.
Vasant Nakashe, Shiv Sena corporator and ward council chairman said, “Fortunately, that building was on one end of Dharavi and not in the heart of it. We are undertaking all measures but people are still not taking lockdown seriously. Many people are still seen roaming around. We will try to increase surveillance but the population is huge and since most of them are daily wage labourers, every factory had 50-60 workers. They have to be provided with all essentials for sustenance.”
Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad, who represents the Dharavi Assembly constituency, said, “We have undertaken every measure including screening residents for symptoms, disinfection and the police are doing contact tracing of the deceased. But Dharavi’s daily wage workers have lost livelihood during coronavirus while the industries located inside have been in losses for more than a year now. We are providing ration to all card holders and have requested government to provide ration to non-card holders as well. I have directed ration shop managers to give time slots to families so that there is no crowding outside the shop.”
The area has six community kitchens functioning while the government introduced seven new kitchens on Thursday to provide cooked food for residents. However, supply of clean, drinking water, milk, medicines, vegetables, grocery will have to be provided at doorstep if authorities want people from venturing out.
Dr. Vikas Oswal, a private chest physician practising in Dharavi, said, “Dharavi is like a timebomb if coronavirus spreads here. Asymptomatic patients of coronavirus might not be revealed for as late as 14 days. That is why the lockdown has to be observed with utmost discipline.”
Mr. Oswal, a member of Mahim-Dharavi Doctors’ Association, said general practitioners have decided to keep their practices shut as they do not have requisite personal protective gear and may come in contact with patients only to pass on the virus to others. Instead, all patients should go to authorised clinics that will further guide them if testing is required.