Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) commissioner Iqbal Singh Chahal said for the next 30 days the civic body would expect to detect around 2,000 coronavirus disease (Covid-19) cases daily, as it planned to increase its tests to up to 14,000 a day amid a surge in the viral outbreak.
Chahal said Mumbai has the capacity to conduct up to 15,000 tests daily.
Mumbai is likely to hit the 200,000-mark of Covid-19 cases by October 10, if the current surge in daily viral outbreak persists.
The city reported 155,622 cases until Sunday, including 123,478 recoveries and 7,869 deaths. Since August 26, Mumbai has been reporting a rise in daily Covid-19 cases.
Earlier in June, Mumbai was reporting between 700 and 1,300 Covid-19 cases daily. Over the last 10 days, the city has been reporting between 1,100 and 1,900 Covid-19 cases daily. The number of active cases has also gone up to over 23,000 cases from up to 20,000. The BMC attributed the spike to the festival season such as Ganesh Chaturti and Muharram coupled with relaxations in lockdown restrictions norms and aggressive testing.
The civic body has decided to conduct up to 14,000 tests daily from the existing 9,000 that had started from the last week of August. The BMC authorities are confident of detecting more cases daily because of its aggressive testing mechanism.
“We expect Mumbai to report around 2,000 Covid-19 cases daily for the next 30 days. I have given targets to my officers. Our focus will be on detecting patients by using the RT-PCR (real-time polymerase chain reaction). Rapid antigen detection (RAD) test kits will be used for more focused testing such as those who are suspected Covid-19 patients because of their pronounced symptoms.”
“We cannot use RAD test kits randomly on the public or on the front-line workers battling the pandemic. The positivity rate is only 4% and 25% for RAD and RT-PCR test, respectively. We will follow the latter. We have capacity to conduct around 15,000 tests daily that include both the testing methods.”
BMC officials said over 820,000 Covid-19 tests have been conducted to date, including RAD tests that account for less than a lakh.
At present, the civic authorities are conducting up to 2,000 RAD tests.
The leader of opposition in the Maharashtra legislative assembly Devendra Fadnavis had said that the consistent low-testing figures led to high positivity and Covid-19-related fatality rates in the state and Mumbai. He had cited the Delhi model in a bid to tackle the viral outbreak.
Chahal put Fadnavis’s comparison in the context.
“There are times when I am told that Delhi is doing more tests, as compared to Mumbai. Delhi has conducted over 160,000 tests, including over five lakhs via the RT-PCR method. So far, Mumbai has conducted over 800,000 tests, including over 90,000 RAD tests. RT-PCR is giving more positivity rate. Simultaneously, we will also do RAD tests. But RT-PCR rates will be done in a more focussed manner,” Chahal said.
The civic authorities said there would not be any shortage faced by the public, despite a spike in Covid-19 cases of late. “We will be able to handle up to 4,000 Covid-19 cases daily. In a couple of days, a 230-intensive care unit (ICU) bed facility at NESCO jumbo centre in Goregaon and 30 ICU beds at Mulund jumbo centre will be thrown open to the public,” Chahal said.
“Our focus is on our jumbo centres. If a need arises, private hospitals can also be looked at. All Covid-19 patients don’t require hospitalisation. In that light, a daily spike in Covid-19 cases should not be a huge cause for concern,” he added.
However, Chahal appealed to the citizens to not panic. He said, “The strategy of BMC to substantially ramp up the tests from an average testing of 7,619 everyday in August to 10,000-14,000 tests everyday in September, resulting in an increase of average number of positive cases from 1,000-1,300 to 1,700-2,000 everyday by effectively utilising large number of vacant Covid beds available in the city of Mumbai will help to accelerate arrest of the spread of virus in Mumbai. Therefore, it is humbly submitted that there should not be any panic created by sudden increase of positive number of cases in Mumbai.”