Considering social distancing one of the necessary precautions to contain spreading COVID-19, the lockdown has been imposed in India on March 25, 2020. However, there are many areas in Mumbai where social distancing is impractical. That has been the biggest concern for the state government, authorities and doctors. Eventually, the Coronavirus has reached one of such areas called Dharavi, Asia’s largest slum, and it’s spreading very fast.

The first COVID-19 positive case in Dharavi was reported at the end of March 2020. The 56-year-old who got infected with the virus died. Now the number has reached to 56 wherein seven deaths due to the Coronavirus were reported at the time of writing. Dharavi is known to be a ticking bomb because there are many diseases the residents are suffering from. Now, this deadly virus has multiplied its plight.

Doctors and civic authorities say social distancing is impractical in Dharavi because more than six people stay in a room which is just 10 feet-by-10 including the kitchen. They line up to use community toilets and wait for water carrying water gallons.

“social distancing is impossible for residents of Dharavi because of the structure of the area,” Kiran Dighavkar said. Kiran is an Assistant Commissioner of Mumbai’s G-ward. Dharavi falls under G-ward and is home to some 60,000 families and 8.5 lakh people, according to the reports.

That is the reason residents of Dharavi are stepping out and roaming around whenever possible. “It is tough for us to stay in a small home all the time. It’s suffocating for us,” Pravin Nikadje said. Pravin runs a small business in Dharavi.


Institutional quarantine

To tackle this issue and control spreading COVID-19 authorities have taken many measures. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is making arrangements to quarantine those who are at high and low risk of getting infected with the Coronavirus. BMC is using Rajiv Gandhi sports complex as a quarantine area which has a capacity of 300 people. Dharavi Municipal School which can adjust about 700 people is also turning into a quarantine area. BMC called it institutional quarantine.

“All the facilities such as food, water and medical facilities are provided to people by the BMC in these institutional quarantine areas,” Kiran Dighavkar said. Between March 23 to April 10, 79550 food packets and 8500 grocery packets have been supplied. The grocery packets include 4kg rice, 2kg pulse, 2kg sugar and 250gram tea powder. As far as containment zones are concerned, 1598kg vegetables and 4600kg grocery have been supplied in the zones. The official data says.

Dharavi has 225 community toilets that the residents use. BMC is disinfecting all the toilets on a daily basis. Even, all the containment zones are also being disinfected every day. To avoid public gatherings, all the shops are closed except medical stores in containment zones. “BMC is supplying groceries, food packets and medicine in containment zones every day,” Kiran Dighavkar told. There have been 21 containment zones so far.


Special liquid and machine imported from New Zealand called ‘Microbe Shield’ to disinfect the community toilets. (PC: special arrangement)



Seeking help from private doctors

Doctors are at the frontline treating COVID-19 patients everywhere. Hence, the authorities and the governments facing a lack of doctors to look after Dharavi. Kiran Dighavkar said that they are requesting private doctors to come forward and join hands with the government doctors to fight against COVID-19 in Dharavi.

“24 private doctors have generously come forward to help us. Because of private doctors, the residents are cooperating with us for testing and other protocols,” the official added.

The official also said that BMC is providing Personal Protection Equipment (PPE), masks, gloves and sanitizers to the doctors. The area has been equipped with 18 Thermal Scanners for screening temperature as a measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Doctors are carrying out tests for COVID-19 in the area. 170 tests have been done so far. According to the data provided by the official, 338 people are at low-risk contacts and 1215 are high-risk contacts. These are the people who came into contact with people who are diagnosed with COVID-19 so far in Dharavi.

Also Read: Coronavirus Reaches To Mumbai’s Slums, Dwellers Are Not Scared