Community toilets, filthy conditions spike coronavirus cases

Videos of dilapidated quarantine centres and poor hygiene facilities have been posted on the internet by patients


The spike in the coronavirus cases in Mumbai can be attributed to community toilets officials have said. The New Indian Express reported that according to Maha Vikas Aghadi minister Aslam Sheikh, the community toilets in the slum and chawl areas are the major reason behind spreading the coronavirus in Mumbai. “Mumbai has a high density of population and particularly in slums. We are providing the mobile toilet facility to these localities as per the recommendations by the central government delegations that recently visited Mumbai’s Worli and Dharavi,” said guardian minister of Mumbai city.

Most of Mumbai’s current 8,613 cases have been reported from congested spaces within the city and its slum areas. Places from where a high number of cases have been reported are – Worli, Byculla, Mazgaon, Matunga, Dharavi and Kurla, among others.

Asia’s largest slum Dharavi has reported a total of 590 cases and 20 deaths while Mahim area has got a total of 68 cases and two deaths.

BMC officials said that a study of these containment zones and sewerage lines around it by an IIT engineer found a large quantum of Covid-19 particles in fecal materials. Requesting anonymity, a senior BMC official said, “We have asked to keep these community toilets clean. The BMC has deployed its additional force in the slum areas and decided to shift the high risk and suspected patients in isolations wards.”

Mumbai’s E-ward which houses Byculla and had recorded around 162 cases by April 24, has a facility that has only 3 toilets for around a 100 patients. Mumbai Mirror reported that two weeks after the defunct Richardson & Cruddas warehouse was converted into a Covid-19 isolation facility to house asymptomatic patients, a video showing the decrepit condition of the toilets went viral on social media. The civic ward office claimed to have cleaned the toilets only after the video went viral.

One of the patients said that there were three toilets for men and three for women, but they were separated by just a curtain. “At night, it is too risky to go there since they are on the ground floor. There are over 40 women patients here. There are some toilets on the first floor, but we are not allowed to use them. There is no soap in the toilets either,” alleged the patient.

According to a senior civic official, twenty additional temporary bathroom and toilet blocks were to be built, but that plan is still lying with the building proposal department.

Samajwadi Party MLA Rais Shaikh said that the delay in cleaning the toilets was leaving the patients exposed to multiple risks. As per Covid-19 containment strategies, asymptomatic patients were shifted from their homes to isolation facilities. Shaikh said, “These patients do not have toilets attached to their homes. They have to use common toilets there. But how is it any different here? They still have to queue up and face unhygienic conditions.”

To this, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of E-ward, Makarand Dagadpher on Sunday said, “The warehouse was shut down for many years. So, the toilets were not in good shape. We have hired a private agency for housekeeping. They clean the toilets three times a day. After complaints were raised on Friday, the toilets were cleaned.”

He also said that the patients couldn’t use the toilets on the first floor as they were meant for doctors and nurses who were treating the patients. “The safety protocol dictates that they can’t use the same toilets as the patients,” he said.

In Uttar Pradesh, doctors and paramedical workers treating Covid-19 patients in the Rae Bareli district, released a video highlighting the filthy living conditions at the quarantine centre set-up by the state in a government-run school.

The staff were under ‘active quarantine’ and couldn’t go home due to the fear of their families catching the virus. “Sleeping arrangements are such that there is a school with big classrooms; each room has four beds. This is against the rules of active quarantine. When we complained about choked bathrooms, they brought a mobile toilet. There was no electricity at night. A 20-litre water bottle was given to us last night and we were told this had to be shared,” the doctor said.

They penned a letter to Chief Medical Officer DK Sharma, who after visiting the school, ordered that the doctors be shifted to a guest house.

Earlier too, in March, a woman who had returned from Spain and was quarantined at the Delhi police training school in Dwarka tweeted videos, exposing the lack of sanitised conditions at her isolation facility, reported The Week.

“I land at Delhi airport dated 16th March 1:00 am KLM airlines from Spain. I am subject to the 14 day quarantine at a govt. facility in Dwarka police training school. I won’t say anything I just give some videos of our *sanitised* accommodation… We are more than 40 people with only 3 washrooms and 5 large bed rooms. They want us to stay sanitised and this is what they give us. Guys this is A MAJOR CONCERN. This way India cannot contain coronavirus only will get more cases (sic),” she said in a series of tweets accompanied by videos.

Speaking to The New Indian Express an official, speaking about the pathetic conditions of affairs at quarantine centres, said, “The BMC should admit that they have inadequate infrastructure and lack efficiency while dealing with pandemic situation therefore the cases are rising. The COVID-19 has exposed the BMC’s crumbling infrastructure.”


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