Affluent flyers bring Covid-19 to India, but mainly chawls and slums sealed off

Worli Koliwada, a Prabhadevi chawl, Jambhlipada in Kalina, Lokhandwala in Kandiwali, Bimbisar Nagar in Goregaon and Neelkanth Regent in Ghatkopar have been completely sealed off in Mumbai

Covid 19Image

The Maharashtra government is pulling all stops to curb the spread of the coronavirus. Out of the over 300 cases emerging from the state, the highest number have been identified in Mumbai. After the rapid spike of cases in the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has identified several ‘containment zones’ across Mumbai and sealed them. These containment zones have been found to have one or more suspected positive cases of Covid-19. It is noteworthy, that most of these containment zones are in low-income neighbourhoods, where there is no space for social distancing. Hence, even one case here is a red flag for the risk of starting off community transmission and infecting the community at large.

This also begs the question that if the disease was brought in to the country by relatively privileged people flying in from abroad, why is it disproportionately affecting the lower-income sections of society? It is clear that the infection was passed on by the foreign returned privileged folk to their staff and other people from low income families they met after returning to the country such as domestic staff such as maids and drivers, ground staff at airports, rickshaw and taxi drivers, etc. The failure of the privileged to self-quarantine is what is causing discomfort to the people they ended up infecting no matter how inadvertent the transmission may have been.

Instead of posh gated communities and exclusive enclaves that are home to the affluent, the neighbourhoods sealed off are predominantly slums, bastis and shanti-towns, where many of these families live cheek-by-jowl and now face an uncertain future with both their health and livelihood at stake. 

What is a containment zone and why is it needed?

A containment zone is the part of the city where an individual has been tested positive for Covid-19. The zone could be a single building, a street or an entire neighbourhood. Containment zones have a large number of people quarantined because of their proximity with Covid-19 patients.

These containment zones are necessary so as to ensure that the Covid-19 virus doesn’t spread beyond the designated area. People in such containment zones are only allowed to step out of the area to buy essentials. In cases where situations are more serious, even that is not allowed and no one from outside is allowed to enter these containment zones too.

Containment zones in Mumbai

As of Friday, the BMC has zeroed down on 212 containment zones in the city. This number went up from 191 on Thursday, 151 on Wednesday and 146 on Tuesday. BMC officials say that the number of such zones is only set to rise as more cases come forth.

Six hot-spots, where instead like earlier solitary cases, a cluster of infections of positive Covid-19 cases has emerged, have been completely sealed by the police. The biggest containment zone is at Worli Koliwada where 11 residents have tested positive so far. This is followed by a chawl in Prabhadevi with 12 cases, Jambhlipada in Kalina and Bimbisar Nagar in Goregaon with three cases each and Lokhandwala in Kandivali and Neelkanth Regent in Ghatkopar with two cases each.

The entry and exit of people here has been completely shut and all essential commodity shops in the area have been shut too. The BMC has said that it will arrange and provide for essentials for the residents of these areas.

Containment zone operations

The BMC has begun a door-to-door screening operation in these containment zones. Roads leading to these zones too are being constantly monitored and only authorized health personnel are being allowed to go through.

Worli Koliwada: The Worli Koliwada containment zone has around 35,000 residents in quarantine. The area witnessed its first death due to coronavirus on Tuesday and the police and administration have now identified clusters, epicenters and buffer zones in the area.

108 residents over the age of 60 with co-morbidities like diabetes, hypertension, etc. have been shifted to Poddar Hospital. Speaking to Mumbai Mirror, one of the officials said that eight small epicenters of the disease have been identified in the area. “We have marked containment zones around these epicenters. They are homes of those who have tested positive. No one can come out or go inside the containment zone. We are sending samples of all those living inside the containment zone for testing. The high-risk citizens were moved so that they don’t get infected.”

Prabhadevi Chawl: After a woman from the chawl who succumbed to the infection last week, seven more of her family members tested positive for the infection. Apart from that, five people from the neighbourhood rooms too tested positive for the virus. The twelve are now undergoing treatment at the Kasturba hospital, which was one of the first designated hospital for Covid-19 patients. According to local Shiv Sena corporator Samadhan Sarvankar, no new cases were detected on Tuesday this week. However, four individuals suspected to have the virus were referred to the Kasturba Hospital too.

Jambhlipada, Kalina: After a 37-year-old man from the Jambhlipada slum tested positive for the infection after returning from Italy, the fire brigade’s Quick Response Vehicles (QRV’s) were sent out to carry out the disinfection of over 800 hutments. All entry and exit points of the area were sealed and no one was being allowed to step out without authorization. Tulip Miranda, the local Congress corporators has said that the BMC will now provide essential supplies to the approximate 32,000 residents of the area.

Bimbisar Nagar, Goregaon: Out of the 31 buildings in the area, almost eight buildings with over 336 flats in them have been encompassed in the containment zone. Imposed restrictions on entry and exit will stay in force for two weeks. Movement is allowed only in two cases – in cases of medical emergency and to access essential services. The building residents have been asked to select a watchman to help buy essential provisions in bulk and leave the same on the ground floor, from where the residents can then collect their packages.

Vanrai police station’s Senior Police Inspector Girendra Bhavsar said that roughly 30 percent of the area is now a containment zone. “Barricades have been erected and notices have been put,” he informed.

Lokhandwala, Kandivali: In this area, everyone exiting or entering the housing complex is being questioned. The 300 m pathway that leads to the society which comprises of five 23-storeyed buildings has been sealed. Here too, restrictions will remain in force for two weeks as per orders of the BMC’s health department said R Kasbe, Senior Police Inspector, Samta Nagar police station.

Member of the Lokhandwala Resident Association, Raj Kashyap, said that the residents from neighbouring buildings have made arrangements for all security guards within the buildings itself. They have been asked not to send the guards out of the area and provisions for their food have also been undertaken by the residents. All the buildings have been disinfected too, he said.

Neelkanth Regent, Ghatkopar: In Neelkanth Regent, an 85-year-old woman passed away due to the infection and her son tested positive for the same later, though he was cured and discharged, the building has been declared a containment zone with the entry and exit gates barricaded. A part of the Ram Narayan Narkar road that leads to the building too has been sealed off. A police officer from Pantnagar police station said “This is a precautionary measure since there was a positive case here. But now that patient has been cured and discharged. However, he is still in home quarantine and so we have sealed the area.”

These five zones are called red zones as even essential services in these zones are shut to strictly ensure there is no citizen movement.

Other areas sealed off

After a 56-year-old man from Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi, passed away due to the Covid-19 infection, eight to 10 members of his family have been put in quarantine. The BMC has since then sealed off an entire pocket of 380 flats of the Slum Rehabilitation Authority (SRA) scheme in the area where the man lived. Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, G North Ward, said, “We have sealed the building the building where he lived and started providing food and other necessities to the residents. His contact history is being traced.”

Dighavkar also said that the BMC is drawing up a list of senior citizens living in the building, especially those with co-morbidities. He said, “If required we will move these high-risk contacts out of Dharavi and put them in quarantine in a hospital.”

The BMC has formed a ‘corona war room’ in its disaster control unit for case data collection, mapping by area and monitoring on-ground movement, reported The Times of India. Two IAS officers have been deputed to the BMC for managing the crisis. The BMC has also installed CCTVs to check that all instructions are being adhered to.

“For the first time, effective monitoring is being done using the ‘Video Analytics’ system so that action can be taken from time to time. Policemen stationed around will automatically get an SMS and take action if any citizen is found loitering in the containment zone areas,” BMC officials said.

The containment zone map can be viewed here.


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