Covid-19: Mumbai in dire need of a special action plan

New Delhi: India’s Covid-19 fight has a Mumbai problem and it’s getting out of hand. The virus spread in the country’s financial capital has moved in a trajectory that’s taking it away from the national curve, and closer to some of the European cities.

Such is the concern at the highest echelons of the government that a central team was dispatched to Mumbai on Thursday to take stock of the situation. Clearly, the time has come to think in terms of a national-level special action plan for Mumbai and its suburbs.

The immediate worry is the rising rate of infection even at the same level of testing. And it’s important to bear in mind that testing has been quite high in Mumbai alone. For instance, on April 24, of the 3,176 tests carried out in the city, 505 were positive while on May 5, of the 2,783 tests, 823 returned positive, according to data available with ICMR. The current rate of infection is at 15.8%, which is galloping ahead of the national average of 4.3%.


The understanding is that while testing was ramped up, contact tracing was not carried out in an effective way, especially in densely populated areas. As a result, an entire cluster could never be properly mapped to control the spread. This was a similar problem Indore faced but matters seem to have improved after a massive door-to-door campaign.

Moreover, the bureaucratic tussle between top officials of Mumbai’s municipal corporation and state government has made matters worse. The shortage of ICU beds is a case in point, where the state has projected to the Centre that it has 678 beds in Mumbai while the municipal corporation believes it has exhausted its capacity. Either way, there’s no taking away from the fact that close to 200 patients, as reported by ET, were now in ICU. This is a jump in a matter of just two weeks. Nearly a fourth of the total Covid-19 deaths are from Mumbai alone.

In this context, time has come to take Mumbai out for special attention, draw up some sort of a contingency plan for the city, which ensures administrative cohesion at the top. Shortage of resources doesn’t appear to be the issue as much as management at the ground level.

Last week, Mumbai, Ahmedabad and Indore were identified for special focus. The Centre came down hard on Gujarat, carrying out a major bureaucratic overhaul of the core team running operations in Ahmedabad and has also put the political leadership under watch. The figure that bothered the most was that 60% deaths in Gujarat happened within two days of hospitalisation. In Indore, there was an administrative fiat on door-to-door testing.

Both cities are still on the edge but have so far retained rate of infection at 7-9% range while Mumbai has continued to grow at an unhealthy clip. Will it be India’s New York in terms of the spread of the epidemic?

That’s a question those in power in Centre and state cannot afford to leave to just chance. Simply put: All that’s needed must be done to arrest Mumbai’s slide and align it to the Indiagraph at the soonest. Else, the consequences could be debilitating.

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