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COVID-19 | While no one’s watching, cases spiral in Andheri (East)

No distancing: People thronging a lane at Andheri East during Iftar. Arunangsu Roy Chowdhury  

Among all of Mumbai’s hotspots, Andheri (East) has escaped scrutiny, despite having the highest number of active COVID-19 cases in Mumbai, at 1,949, and 264 deaths. The ward also ranks second in terms of cumulative cases. With a case growth rate of 4.4% and a doubling rate of 16 days, the slums in this ward are becoming a virus hotbed.

Andheri (East) comes under the K East ward, which includes MIDC SEEPZ, Marol, Vile Parle (East) and Jogeshwari (East). The ward is made up of 70% slums. In the initial weeks of the pandemic, the ward was not in the top 10, but in May, it climbed up the ladder and became the ward with the second highest number of cases in Mumbai so far. On May 27, the ward had 1,875 cases, which doubled by June 11, a doubling rate of 16 days. It is also the only ward to have crossed the 3,500-mark along with G North.

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K East vs. G North

As on Thursday, G North had 3,668 cases while K East was at a close 3,616. Despite being at No. 2 in cumulative cases, the number of active cases in this ward, at 1,949, is far higher than G North, which has 1,251 such cases.

K East has a case growth rate of 4.1%. The ward has seen 264 deaths, while 1,521 people have recovered so far. Of the total number of cases, 27 are people repatriated from other countries while about 700 are essential service staffers.

Some of the areas in the ward that have reported the highest number of cases include Marol Pipeline, Mograpada, Indira Nagar, Hanuman Nagar, Meghwadi, Shiv Tekdi, Saraswati Chawl, Malpadongri, Kondivita, Shastri Nagar. The ward has 41 containment zones with a population of 4.5 lakh. It has 265 sealed buildings with a population of 1.89 lakh.

‘No containment’

“Even when the lockdown was in force, police was not able to implement it strictly. In Meghwadi area, there has been no containment,” said Anant Nar, local Shiv Sena corporator and former Improvements Committee chairman. “The BMC is holding fever camps and screening people in slums but people are refusing to go into quarantine. They ask to be home quarantined, which is not possible in slums.”

Marol-based activist Godfrey Pimenta said most of the cases are from slums in the Marol Pipeline area, where the lockdown was not observed. “I had demanded that the BMC shift a hawking area, where people were crowding to buy vegetables every day, without any regard for physical distancing. But where are elected representatives? It is their job to create awareness among slumdwellers but they are nowhere to be seen.”

‘Increased screening’

The BMC, however, said the numbers are rising because of the increased surveys. “We are locating and isolating more and more fever patients. In some places, we have a permanent camp for fever survey. This will help us prevent cases in future,” said Prashant Sapkale, assistant municipal commissioner of K East ward. “If cases are reported from outside containment zones, we have even quarantined 20 contacts. We have quarantined 5,000 people so far. Numbers will come down in two weeks.”

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Printable version | Jan 28, 2021 5:30:13 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/mumbai/while-no-ones-watching-covid-19-cases-spiral-in-andheri-east/article31816917.ece

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