Beating back the pandemic in Mumbai

The Brihanmumbai Municipal Company has been assembly the second wave of the COVID-19 problem on a conflict footing. Sonam Saigal experiences on how the civic physique learnt classes from the primary wave and adopted a decentralised method which is exhibiting outcomes slowly however absolutely

For six years, 42-year-old Surekha Mane spent most of her days educating historical past and geography to college students from Lessons 5 to eight. Her run-of-the-mill routine was immediately upended in January this 12 months. Now, she is a part of the Maharashtra authorities’s giant crew of COVID-19 fighters.

Mane works at a catastrophe management room, or ward ‘conflict room’, in Mumbai, the place she solutions misery calls from these exhibiting signs of COVID-19 or from their households and diligently notes down their particulars.

The job is hectic. On Could 13, Mane answered 23 telephone calls on one of many 15 strains within the ‘conflict room’ at ‘E’ ward. “The very first thing I do once I reply a name is to take down the contact variety of the individual calling in case the road will get disconnected,” she says.

Mane says the character of calls has modified over time. “Earlier, we used to get a whole lot of queries on the provision of beds and ambulances. Now, the general public calling are in isolation at dwelling. They ask about rubbish disposal as a result of the society doesn’t gather their rubbish. I take down their title, quantity, handle and enter all this right into a register. Then I contact the waste administration division. The following day, I comply with as much as verify if the rubbish has been picked up,” she says.

Additionally learn: Coronavirus | Maharashtra clocks all-time single-day excessive with 30,535 instances

Mane typically will get uncommon requests. “The opposite day, I received this name asking for a banner for a society. The BMC (Brihanmumbai Municipal Company) places up banners at buildings after it declares them as ‘containment zones’. [When five people test positive for COVID-19 in a building, it is labelled a containment zone.] The secretary of the constructing referred to as saying a stray canine tore off the banner. So, we organized for the banner to be put up once more,” she says.

Mane is likely one of the over thousand employees members working at Mumbai’s ‘conflict rooms’. The monetary capital struggled in the course of the preliminary part of the primary COVID-19 wave with just one central BMC helpline. It rapidly learnt that decentralisation was the easiest way to deal with the unfolding problem. With the assistance of personal hospitals, the police, academic establishments, business and others, the BMC, the richest civic physique within the nation, has been assembly the brand new wave of the COVID-19 problem on a conflict footing. And the outcomes are slowly however absolutely exhibiting, with many praising what it now being known as the ‘Mumbai mannequin’. After a report variety of every day instances on April 3 (11,163), Mumbai has been recording a gradual dip since then, with 1,657 every day instances on Could 14.

Beating back the pandemic in Mumbai


Mumbai, the hotspot

Quickly after Mumbai recorded its first COVID-19 case in March 2020, and instances climbed to 17, the Maha Vikas Aghadi authorities, a coalition of the Shiv Sena, Congress and the Nationalist Congress Occasion, declared COVID-19 an epidemic and invoked the Epidemic Illnesses Act of 1897. On March 13, 2020, the State authorities shut down theatres, gyms, swimming swimming pools and public parks; barred social, spiritual and political occasions; requested non-public employers to make sure that workers do business from home wherever doable; and suggested folks in opposition to visiting malls, resorts, eating places and different crowded locations. On March 20, when instances reached 52, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray introduced that every one workplaces, excluding important providers and public transport, in sure pockets of Maharashtra could be shut until March 31. He then imposed an entire lockdown as instances continued to extend. Regardless of these measures, Mumbai quickly turned a hotspot for COVID-19 instances. By Could 8, it had recorded 12,142 COVID-19 instances. The BMC appeared prefer it was dropping the battle in opposition to the virus.

Mahesh Narvekar, chief officer of the BMC’s catastrophe administration cell, remembers how traumatic the job was again then. He says the central management room (quantity 1916) buckled beneath the stress of calls in the course of the first wave of COVID-19. “As 75% of the employees examined constructive, there have been only a few folks to take the calls, not to mention handle the queries of these determined individuals who had been calling,” he says. “I appointed some contractual name operators however they had been new and didn’t have any area data.” Staggering beneath the load of instances and deaths, town appeared prefer it was getting ready to a catastrophe.

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Again then, there have been solely 40 ambulances for COVID-19 sufferers and 4 hearses to hold useless our bodies, Narvekar says. “The backlog of useless our bodies was 100-150. These our bodies had been simply mendacity in morgues. We didn’t have any autos to hold the our bodies,” he remembers.

Right this moment, the BMC has 675 ambulances and 400 hearses.

Chasing the virus

With its again to the wall, the BMC started to combat again in the course of the first wave. A brand new BMC Commissioner, Iqbal Singh Chahal, who was Principal Secretary within the City Improvement division, was appointed to guide the combat on Could 8, 2020. Chahal was chosen regardless of having had no expertise in municipal administration. He remembers the day he acquired the order as being “very scary”. “That day there have been experiences of a physique discovered on the highway close to Dadar, one other physique present in an autorickshaw in Parel, and one other on the divider at Dharavi,” he says.

Chahal instantly referred to as all of the 120 heads of departments of the BMC, 24 ward officers, 24 wards in-charge of well being, deputy commissioners, further commissioners and joint commissioners for a bodily assembly. “Now we have to chase the virus,” he instructed them. The BMC quickly launched the ‘Chase the Virus’ marketing campaign and started to aggressively take a look at, hint and isolate. As a part of this marketing campaign, 15 shut associates of each COVID-19 constructive affected person had been compulsorily institutionally quarantined. As well as, group leaders had been appointed to offer info to folks about co-morbidities, services being supplied at institutional quarantine services, clinic timings, and so forth.

Additionally learn: Coronavirus | Amid surge in COVID-19 instances, Maharashtra bans gatherings

Chahal led from the entrance. He carried out a 5.5 km march at Mukund Nagar in Dharavi together with 50 BMC officers. The officers checked the hygiene circumstances within the slums and distributed packets of meals. “The BMC deliberate to go to all of the containment zones throughout varied slums in Mumbai as a result of 95% of the instances had been within the slums,” says Chahal. The civic physique’s purpose was to go from home to deal with, take a look at, quarantine those that had been discovered constructive, and transfer their relations and neighbours to the 47,000 rooms that had been made out there by 187 resorts in Mumbai.

It was an onerous process. “We began shifting near 30,000 folks every week,” says Chahal. On the similar time, BMC officers began sanitising the houses of those that had examined constructive and saved fixed checks on those that had been quarantined to see if they’d developed any signs. “Those that developed signs had been taken to hospitals. Else, they had been despatched again to their sanitised houses,” says Chahal. The BMC moved over 1.5 lakh folks on this approach in Mumbai by the primary wave.

Beating back the pandemic in Mumbai


At first nobody needed to be whisked away to those services. “However by phrase of mouth, folks got here to find out about these services. They understood that folks had been being sorted effectively. And that broke the preliminary reluctance amongst folks; they voluntarily agreed to maneuver,” he says.

Chahal says he visited 55 slums in Mumbai. Hundreds of well being employees, who feared visiting containment zones earlier, visited the slums too. “This was within the second week of Could. We rapidly arrested the unfold of the virus. In July, the World Well being Group praised our efforts in Dharavi,” says Chahal.

Additionally learn: Coronavirus | Maharashtra broadcasts evening curfew, weekend lockdown

Getting the most important slum of Asia so as was by no means going to be a straightforward process. Sanitation and hygiene are the primary casualty in a slum of Dharavi’s measurement. “We entered public bathrooms in Dharavi and located that 200 folks had been sharing one rest room. Every public rest room had 20-25 seats. We ordered that the bathrooms be sanitised each two hours. That’s being carried out even at this time. That is how we destroyed the virus in public bathrooms,” Chahal says.

Function of group leaders

These initiatives weren’t foolproof. To make sure that directions had been being adopted by BMC workers, group leaders had been roped in to maintain frequent checks on them. Every of the group leaders was given a cell phone and was related to the management rooms. These leaders had been requested to verify whether or not BMC well being employees had been going door to door checking folks’s temperatures, conducting checks, and checking for co-morbidities, or whether or not they had been simply filling up paperwork on the exit gates of the containment zones. They had been requested to report back to the BMC if the bathrooms weren’t sanitised. They had been requested to verify whether or not private protecting gear kits had been being utilized by healthcare employees and whether or not folks within the neighbourhood had developed signs like diarrhoea or eye issues. Along with this, they monitored the standard of the meals packets being distributed by the BMC. This was micro-management and but a decentralised operation that was put in place by the Mumbai civic authority.

It was additionally vital to maintain the BMC workers, says Chahal. “Greater than 100 BMC workers had died between March and April 2020, and they didn’t come beneath the Authorities of India’s insurance coverage scheme for frontline healthcare employees. For instance, safai karamcharis and bus drivers of BEST buses who had been ferrying docs weren’t within the class of frontline employees,” he says. In mid-Could, the households of all BMC workers who died of COVID-19 turned entitled to obtain ₹50 lakh as compensation. The announcement galvanised the employees. The BMC has paid ₹150 crore as compensation to the households of the bereaved workers.

Contained in the ‘conflict rooms’

The BMC additionally launched one other marketing campaign referred to as ‘Chase the Affected person’ the place it requested folks to get examined and admitted in hospitals if they’d signs of COVID-19. Every of the 24 wards in Mumbai received a ‘conflict room’, its personal devoted line, and a COVID-19 dashboard that was uploaded each day. The dashboard offers info on the variety of constructive instances, energetic instances (symptomatic and asymptomatic) and variety of sufferers discharged. The ‘conflict rooms’ are energetic 24X7 with employees working in three shifts. Every shift has at the very least one physician on obligation to advise sufferers. These ‘conflict rooms’ have been particularly helpful in the course of the second wave.

The ‘conflict room’ of Okay (West) ward is related to 12 hospitals and two COVID-19 Care Centres for asymptomatic sufferers. Dr. Hameen Yadnyeshwari, the in-charge there, says the ‘conflict room’ has eight docs who work in three shifts, together with 5 BMC workers who take queries and make preparations to sanitise the houses of COVID-19 sufferers. “We even have 10 academics who obtain calls and 5 academics who make calls after they obtain the ultimate listing of COVID-19 sufferers,” says Yadnyeshwari. “When the second wave began round mid-February this 12 months, the variety of instances began rising to 50, 60 even 80 in a ward versus 20,30 that we noticed final 12 months. That’s once we knew the second wave was right here. We started to extend the variety of beds in non-public hospitals and non-COVID-19 hospitals. We additionally added oxygen beds to COVID-19 care centres.”

Right this moment, calls are largely about vaccination. In Okay(West) ward, Deepa Raut, who teaches science to college students of Class Eight at a BMC-run college in Juhu, has been attending to a number of of those anxious calls. “On Could 13, I acquired 12 calls and all of them had been vaccination-related. We guarantee them that we’re there to assist them. We inform them that the BMC is arising with extra vaccination centres and vaccines, and that the issue will likely be resolved quickly,” she says.

Involving non-public hospitals

An operation of this scale couldn’t have been doable with out the involvement of personal hospitals. The chief working officers of 35 non-public hospitals together with Breach Sweet Hospital, Lilavati Hospital, Nanavati Hospital, Wockhardt Hospitals and Hiranandani had been introduced in. A BMC order said that 80% of the full beds and 100% of ICU beds in non-public hospitals shall be saved reserved just for COVID-19 sufferers referred by ward ‘conflict rooms’. With a view to increase ambulance capability, 800 Tata Sumo and Toyota Innova vehicles out there with the BMC had been transformed into ambulances. Fifty mini buses had been transformed into ambulances with stretchers and Uber was roped in to make out there its fleet of vehicles and buses.

Establishments had been additionally roped in. IIT Bombay developed an online web page referred to as This provides info to COVID-19 sufferers about slots out there for dialysis. Aggressive measures had been put in place for these not observing COVID-19 protocols. The BMC has collected ₹50 crore as fines from folks to date.

Big COVID-19 Care Centres had been created on the Bandra Kurla Advanced, NESCO in Goregaon and the Nationwide Sports activities Membership of India at Worli. These have a complete capability of 78,000 beds and are centrally air conditioned. The BMC additionally ensured that sufferers might keep up a correspondence with their households by iPads.

Making ready for the worst

Eight jumbo isolation centres had been arrange throughout town final 12 months. Besides one which didn’t have a single affected person, all of them had been saved intact, says Chahal. “We saved the beds, gear and oxygen assist which weren’t used within the first wave. All that’s now being utilised on the new centre which we’re constructing proper reverse the Mahalaxmi Racecourse,” he says.

As anticipated, Mumbai was badly hit by the second wave. Maharashtra is the worst-affected State this 12 months too, accounting for greater than 1 / 4 of the instances within the nation. Fatalities too have been excessive. And regardless of efforts, there have been alarms about scarcity of oxygen. Chahal remembers one notably tough evening: “On April 16 midnight, I learnt about scarcity of oxygen. Within the morning, I texted Cupboard Secretary Rajiv Gauba and instructed him that we have to import oxygen. He put me in contact with Dr. Guruprasad Mohapatra, Secretary within the Division for Promotion of Business and Inner Commerce. I stated it could take eight days for oxygen to succeed in Mumbai from Haldia, West Bengal, and requested if oxygen tankers might come from Jamnagar, simply 16 hours away. He organized for it. A catastrophe was averted.”

However because of this mixed and sustained effort over months, there have been no SOS requires beds in Mumbai in the course of the second wave. Dr. Mangala Gomare, govt well being officer of BMC, in her affidavit earlier than the Bombay Excessive Court docket stated, “The BMC’s COVID-19 Response Struggle Room Dashboard uploaded each day at 5 pm accommodates all of the important details about complete energetic instances — symptomatic in addition to asymptomatic energetic instances.”

“In all of the devoted COVID-19 hospitals, healthcare centres and ‘jumbo’ COVID services, a nodal officer has been appointed to replace the info at common intervals. The identical info is out there to the catastrophe administration cell in addition to the ‘conflict rooms’ and the directors of every ward. Subsequently, for efficient mattress administration, real-time info is out there with the ‘conflict rooms’ of every ward,” stated Dr. Gomare.

“Every ward conflict room has a cellular medical crew which is deployed in case there’s a severe emergency. The crew supplies non permanent medical care whereas shifting the affected person to the closest hospital. The sufferers who’re suggested dwelling isolation are recurrently referred to as on their cellphones on the third, fifth, seventh and 10th day. The ward ‘conflict rooms’ in coordination with well being officers comply with up with sufferers and allot beds on the identical day,” stated Gomare.

Dr. Manoj Joshi, Dean of BYL Nair Hospital, says it was very tough to place the plan in place. “Following the lockdown, the problem was to offer transport for healthcare employees coming from outdoors Mumbai like Vasai-Virar, Nala Sopara, Panvel, Badlapur and Kalyan. We managed this for hundreds of healthcare employees. We sorted their wants. As canteens weren’t open, meals was supplied both by corporates or by resorts,” says Joshi. Greater than 50% of healthcare employees together with docs, resident docs, nurses and assist employees stayed at resorts, says Joshi.

On the similar time, strict motion was taken in opposition to those that didn’t come. “We served them notices, handed out punishment. We tried to take away some, threaten some. However that’s how all of them resumed work. It was by reward and punishment,” says Joshi.

Going past obligation

The ‘Mumbai mannequin’ could be incomplete with out the point out of the Mumbai Police which has misplaced 115 of its personnel to COVID-19 until date. “The primary wave was robust. Folks didn’t perceive the gravity of the issue, and weren’t prepared to pay attention. So, robust measures needed to be taken in some areas and this put a whole lot of policemen in danger,” says a police officer who labored in Dadar and Worli Koliwada, which had been among the many worst affected areas in Mumbai when COVID-19 was at its peak. “However folks have been far more cooperative since then,” he says.

Hemant Nagrale, the Mumbai Police Commissioner, says the function of the police is multifaceted throughout a pandemic. “We have to keep the lockdown, deploy our officers on the highway and in busy areas like markets. We have to concern e-passes to facilitate journey in instances of demise, marriage or any medical emergency after permission is granted by the native authority.” The Mumbai Police have additionally needed to man buildings the place folks have been quarantined to make sure that no person leaves or enters the constructing. “Now we have deployed officers at vaccination centres and COVID-19 wards in order that the vaccination course of goes on easily and there aren’t any stampedes,” he says.

The police are additionally required at crematoriums for unclaimed our bodies. “A head constable, Gyandeo Ware, has cremated 50 our bodies. All of them had COVID-19. The police should take the our bodies from the hospitals or morgues and cremate them. It’s not their obligation, however they’ve carried out this as a humane gesture,” he says.

The ‘Mumbai Mannequin’ is being replicated in different districts. “This mannequin is being carried out with native variations in rural areas. Circumstances are coming down in Nagpur and Pune. Now we have elevated testing in lots of rural areas. We’re additionally making an attempt to extend the provision of beds and oxygen in keeping with the wants,” says Maharashtra Chief Secretary Sitaram Kunte.

Even supposing Mumbai’s every day positivity price was as little as 7% on Could 10 as in comparison with round 25% within the first week of April, it can not afford to calm down. “As we anticipate a 3rd wave, there are two challenges that we envisage: instances could originate from the agricultural areas of Maharashtra and that wave could have an effect on the youthful inhabitants extra,” says Kunte. The challenges maintain piling on, however “we’re making ready for them,” he says.

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