While Delhi is witnessing a surge in coronavirus again, Mumbai seems to have arrested the rise in numbers after five months of high coronavirus activity.
However, medical experts say that the battle is far from over and Mumbai could soon see another surge in cases. India Today spoke to Commissioner of Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation Iqbal Singh Chahal on various aspects — right from what worked for Mumbai and what is the road ahead. Here are some excerpts from the interview–
”My Family My Responsibility’ paid rich dividends’
I would like to emphasise that the Chief Minister of Maharashtra Uddhav Thackeray started a very unique campaign called ‘My family My Responsibility’. This was done in the first week of September itself. Under this campaign, the BMC paid visits to 35.1 lakh families of Mumbai. BMC visited the houses of all these families twice. Right from the slum dwellers to the people living in high rises. We checked their oxygen level, body temperatures and found thousands of co-morbid people. They were put in hospitals and treated.
In addition, we printed 60 lakh pamphlets that had all the Dos and Don’ts printed on them about Covid19. These were distributed in various homes by the healthcare workers. For their ready reference, the phone numbers of all 24 wards were given as well.
We educated the people on how a mask is as good as a vaccine. We also warned them that BMC would impose a fine on all those who were found without a mask in public places. We have been penalisisng around 15 thousand people every day without masks. We brought down the fine amount from Rs.500 to Rs.200 but collecting money in fines wasn’t the objective. Our objective was to spread awareness so that people realise that wearing a mask was absolutely necessary so that they remain safe and don’t spread virus to other families. We have fined four lakh people till now and are targeting 10 lakh people in the next three to four weeks.
Besides, under the ‘My Family My Responsibility’ campaign, we painted the put up graffiti more than 1,000 hoardings. 4,000 buses of BEST, 3,500 bus stops had the campaign slogan ‘No Mask No Entry’. Moreover, 40 lakh stickers which read ‘No Mask No Entry’ were put outside shops, commercial premises, offices (government and private), malls, buses, autos and all public transport systems across the city. So, we created a very big campaign which has played a major role in bringing down the coronavirus numbers in Mumbai.
Coronavirus numbers in control
I agree that the coronavirus danger is far from over but there are three key parameters that I would like to highlight today. On November 19 we conducted18,000 tests and we had 1018 positive cases. Some people say that our numbers have doubled in the last couple of days without realising that around Deepawali the testing had gone down to 5 thousand to 7 thousand in those four to five days. And now when the testing has reached the 18,000-mark, what matters is positivity. Even last week when our cases were 491 our positivity rate was 9% and today when we have 1018 cases after 18,000 tests, the positivity rate has come down to 5.8 %. This is the lowest ever positivity since March in Mumbai.
Mumbai conducted 18,000 tests on November 19, says BMC Chief. (Photo: PTI)
Since the last three months our death rate has been around 2 % and since the last month, it is 1 %. The denominator is big and it is taking us time. We have come down from 5.5% to 3.9% now but right now we are maintaining 1-1.5% death rate. This is an indicator that our positivity is down to 5.8% which is the lowest ever. Our doubling rate has gone to 310, our rate of infection is down to 0.2%. All these figures are the lowest ever.
Then we have 9,600 beds that are vacant in hospitals. We have overall 13,000 beds, 867 ICUs that are vacant in various hospitals in Mumbai. And the best part is there are just 8,600 cumulative active cases in Mumbai. There was a time when we had 40 thousand active cases but not today. There are many who are asymptomatic and under home quarantine. Currently, only 2,600 patients are under treatment.
Kids can’t be put to risk
Schools will remain shut till December 31 because we believe in taking abundant precaution. We always plan for the worst and think for the best. So, we decided that there shall not be a single child put at risk. The schools are already closed and they remain closed. It is not as if they were opened and then we decided to shut them again.
Next three to four weeks most critical
There are not going to be any new restrictions in Mumbai in the days ahead but the next three to four weeks are critical. We will likely review the situation after three to four weeks and then take a call again. There are no restrictions apart from swimming pools, schools and trains which we had planned to start earlier but shall remain closed for now. However, rest of the places will have no impact for now.
Slums priority for Covid-19 vaccine
We received instructions from the government of India and the government of Maharashtra that we have to plan out the organisational set up of how the coronavirus vaccine is going to be spread and catered right from the ward level to the corporate level. All the details and planning are now in place and once the instructions come in we are fully geared to go ahead. Our poor citizens of the slums will remain as our focus and we will take them on priority. The vaccine distribution campaign will start at hundreds of places simultaneously. The coronavirus warriors, senior citizens and others will be categorised and we will be following a Standard Operating Procedure on them. The plan is almost ready and other details are being worked out.