As all eyes were on Mumbai and its worsening Covid situation, a district adjoining it has slowly become one of India’s worst hotspots. From the beginning of July, Thane district, adjoining the financial capital in western Maharashtra, has had the highest daily new cases for any Indian district.
Despite having more cases on most days, Delhi is not a comparable city because it is composed of eleven districts. By early July, Thane had overtaken Chennai to register the largest number of new cases every day, with Pune district following the two. On most days this month, Thane recorded over 2,000 new cases every day.
Colloquially known as an “extended suburb” of Mumbai, Thane district is composed of six municipal corporations the most for any district two municipal councils and a small rural area and has a large commuter workforce that, prior to the lockdown, would pack into local trains to head into Mumbai for employment.
Each municipal corporation is a busy city on its own, making it a particularly difficult district to administer, even after Palghar district was hived off from it in 2014.
Much as in the rest of the country, Thane’s first case was a person who’d returned from overseas, and inter-state travel was then identified as the source of many of the early cases. In the weeks that followed, two wholesale vegetable markets were linked to a spurt in cases.
But it does appear that for the last three months, attention was so heavily focused on Mumbai that the spike in cases in Thane flew under the radar. Since June 23, Thane district has consistently added more new cases per day than Mumbai’s two districts put together, despite having a substantially lower population.
On July 10, Thane district added nearly 1,000 more new cases than Mumbai did on the same day. While separate testing data for Thane is not available, the district has the highest test positivity rate in the state.
The bulk of the district’s 57,000+ cases come from the three municipal corporations of Thane, Kalyan-Dombivli and Navi Mumbai. Despite seeing much fewer cases, Bhiwandi city has had the highest case fatality rate of over 5.5 per cent.
Cases in Thane are growing faster than in Maharashtra or India, doubling every 18 days, compared to the state average of 23 days and the national average of a little more than 20 days.
However, the doubling time of cases in the district has slowed slightly. The administration imposed a strict lockdown between July 2 and 12, and as the deadline approached, extended it until July 19, aiming to hold down the spike.