Once considered as the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, Mumbai is gradually seeing improvement in the situation.
As on Thursday, four wards have been declared free of containment zones by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC). These are B (Dongri), G-South (Elphinstone and Worli), H-West (Bandra West), and R-Central (Borivli) wards.
According to the Union health ministry, a containment zone refers to a specific geographical area where positive cases of coronavirus are found. Strict movement restrictions are put in place at such areas to prevent any further spread of the virus.
The total number of containment zones in the 24 wards has dropped to 211 on January 7 from around 2,600 during the early months of the pandemic. BMC has released 2,405 containment zones across the city.
Officials have attributed the decline in the containment zones to the drop in the daily cases. In the past one month, daily Covid-19 cases have remained constant between 400 and 600.
Of the four containment-free zones, the situation in R-Central and G-South wards had posed concerns for ward officers owing to the large presence of slum dwellers. To control the cases, the ward officers followed two main strategies — mass isolation from slums and sealing buildings in non-slum areas.
Sharad Ughade, assistant municipal commissioner of G-South ward said after the pandemic broke out in March and the virus gradually spread from high-rise buildings to the slums in Worli Koliwada, his main strategy was to seal the slums completely.
“As soon as we sealed the slum pockets, we started screening all the symptomatic residents and their relatives. We systematically traced their closed contacts and isolated them in our Covid care centres (CCC). This helped us to break the chain of infection in the slums, which was our first win,” said Ughade.
Till January 7 this year, the ward has recorded 10,400 Covid-19 cases with 0.12% weekly growth rate.
During this time, civic officials with the help of social workers and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) arranged for food and daily groceries for the residents. However, in July, after the lockdown rules were relaxed, more number of residents from the high-rise buildings started contracting the infection. This turned into the biggest challenge for the ward officers due to the lack of cooperation among the non-slum population.
“Due to the fear of contracting the virus, slum dwellers had become extremely cautious. But handling the residents from the high-rise buildings had turned into a nightmare for us. There was so much resistance and opposition from them. They wouldn’t even follow proper safety rules,” said Bhagyashree Kapse, ward officer, R-Central ward. Till January 7, the ward has reported 21,328 Covid-19 cases. The weekly growth rate of the wards stands at 0.18%.
Later, civic officials arranged meetings with secretaries of the buildings. To restrict movement of residents, the ward officers started sealing buildings with any case of Covid-19.
“If we found any society with repeated new cases of coronavirus, we would hold the secretaries responsible for it. This helped in streamlining the regulations and residents became more responsible,” said Kapse.
Among the other wards, E (Byculla) and A (Fort) wards have only one containment zone each.
The three wards with the highest number of containment zones are S (Bhandup), K-West (Andheri West) and N (Ghatkopar) wards with 25, 21 and 20 zones, respectively.