WHO chief praises Dharavi's coronavirus containment strategy, says testing is key

WHO chief praises Dharavi's coronavirus containment strategy, says testing is key

The World Health Organisation (WHO) on Friday lauded the efforts put in to break the chain of the novel coronavirus in the "densely packed area in the megacity of Mumbai", Dharavi, among other countries.

Stating Italy, Spain and South Korea, and even in Dharavi as examples, WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said that however "intense" the outbreak was in some countries, the coronavirus could still be chased through aggressive action. He also said that it is still possible to bring coronavirus outbreaks under control, even though the number of cases has more than doubled in the past six weeks.

"In the last six weeks cases have more than doubled," Tedros told a virtual press conference in Geneva. However, "there are many examples from around the world that have shown that even if the outbreak is very intense, it can still be brought back under control," said Tedros.

"Some of these examples are Italy, Spain and South Korea, and even in Dharavi - a densely packed area in the megacity of Mumbai - a strong focus on community engagement and the basics of testing, tracing, isolating and treating all those that are sick is key to breaking the chains of transmission and suppressing the virus," Tedros said.

Tedros statement comes on the day, Mike Ryan, head of the World Health Organization's emergencies programme said that it was unlikely that the new coronavirus would be eliminated. He further said that to avoid future flare-ups of the disease, countries would have to act quickly after coming out of lockdowns.

The BMC faced several challenges in Dharavi where 80 per cent of the population depends on community toilets, it said.

About 8-10 people live in households or hutment that measures about 10/10 feet, coupled with the existence of narrow lanes with two-three-storey houses where often the ground floor is a house and other floors are used as factories, the statement said.

According to the BMC's infographic based on July 8 data, five civic wards, four from western suburbs and G-south ward in Island City where Asia's largest slum Dharavi is located, have over 5,000 cases each.

"Being densely populated (2,27,136 persons/sq km), Dharavi had 491 cases in April 2020 with a 12 per cent growth rate and a case doubling period of 18 days," it said. "The proactive measures adopted by BMC reduced the Covid-19 growth rate to 4.3 per cent in May 2020 and further to 1.02 per cent in June," the Centre had said earlier.

The BMC adopted a model of actively following the four T's - tracing, tracking, testing and treating, the ministry said. This approach included activities like proactive screening and while 47,500 people were covered by doctors and private clinics in house-to-house screening, about 14,970 people were screened with the help of mobile vans, and 4,76,775 were surveyed by BMC health workers.

"Fever clinics were set up for screening high-risk category such as elderly/senior citizens. This helped to screen 3.6 lakh people. Also, around 8246 senior citizens were surveyed and as part of its policy of 'timely separation', they were separated from the other community to effectively limit the transmission of the disease," the ministry said.

To tackle the issue of manpower to carry out proactive screening in high-risk zones, the BMC forged strategic public-private partnerships in containment measures and all available 'private' practitioners were mobilised, the ministry had said.

"BMC provided the private doctors with PPE Kits, thermal scanners, pulse Oxymeters, masks and gloves and started door-to-door screening in high-risk zones and all suspects were identified," it said.

As the option of home quarantine could not effectively produce the desired outcomes due to the space limitations in the congested area, institutional quarantine facilities were created in all available schools, marriage halls, sports complexes, etc, the ministry had said