Mumbai chases virus throughAugust 12, 2020
Taking a leaf from the successful containment of the COVID-19 pandemic in Dharavi, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation launched ‘Mission Zero’ on 22nd June 2020 in other areas of the city. Under the programme, mobile dispensary vans go door-to-door in the disease-ridden zones of Mumbai to conduct a preliminary examination of patients and investigate the suspects.
Areas like Worli, Antop Hill, Dongri, Wadala, Charni Road, Girgaon, Fort, Colaba, Dadar as well as suburban regions including Dahisar, Borivali, Kandivali, Malad, Andheri, Mulund and Bhandup were covered. According to the data released by BMC, areas like Malad, Dahisar, Borivali and Kandivali witnessed a steady increase in the number of coronavirus cases. A strict lockdown was imposed, and screening of people was initiated in view of the situation.
Launched in collaboration with Greater Mumbai Municipal Corporation, Bhartiya Jain Sanghtana (BJS), Desh Apnayen and CREDAI-MCHI, the initiative started by Mayor Kishori Pednekar aims to curb the growing number of coronavirus outbreaks in the city.
Mission Universal Testing: At home detection
In addition, BMC also announced the launch of ‘Mission Universal Testing’ on 24th June 2020, through which one lakh antigen testing kits were made available to government hospitals, COVID care centres and civic hospitals. BMC had also requested big, private hospitals, corporate companies and private offices to buy these kits and conduct testing.
Throwing light on the same, Dr Jeenam Shah, Consultant Interventional Pulmonologist, Wockhardt Hospital, Mumbai Central, said 50 mobile dispensary vans would visit Mulund, Bhandup, Andheri, Malad, Borivali, Dahisar and Kandivali areas for 2-3 weeks to conduct a preliminary examination of patients as these areas have the majority of COVID cases. “Door-to-door screening, fever camps and mobile ambulances will help in early detection and prompt treatment of coronavirus disease and other ailments. All COVID suspects will be immediately isolated and their swab samples will be sent for testing,” he added. Mission Zero has also been launched in Thane and Nashik.
“The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has also come up with Mission Universal Testing and procured around 1,00,000 antigen testing kits which can provide COVID-19 results in just half an hour. These rapid tests check for antibodies which are produced in response to a pathogen, in this case COVID-19, and e-prescriptions can be accepted. However, the big development in all this is that now people can also use this test at home. This is a good move and a step in the right direction. However, we will have to wait and watch, and see how it goes,” he further said.
Dr Shivkumar Utture, President, Maharashtra Medical Council said
the concept stemmed from today’s reality where authorities have to chase the virus and not wait for the patients to come to them. “This concept was very successful in the Dharavi project and we were able to control the spread of the disease in a place like Dharavi which was like a ticking time bomb.”
Doctors at the doorstep
Under Mission Zero, doctors will be at the patient’s doorstep, which is what is being followed in red zone areas of Mumbai like Bhandup, Mulund, Borivali, Kandivali, Malad etc. If the medical teams suspect that the family is susceptible to the disease, they would be tested immediately, points out Utture.
“In addition to that, the authorities have also launched Mission Universal Testing. The launch of rapid antigen tests has enabled us to do more and more testing and the government has bought more than 1 lakh test kits to perform these antigen tests. Such tests are being performed by the majority of medical colleges and hospitals. The advantage of this is that it is cheaper and the results can be obtained in 2-3 hours, unlike the PCR test which is costly and sometimes takes 2-3 days for the results to come in. The only disadvantage of rapid antigen tests is a high rate of false negatives. But more than fifty to sixty percent of the patients who come out positive are definitely suffering from the disease. If the test comes out negative, but the patient is symptomatic, then the patient has to be sent for the RT-PCR test, which remains the gold standard for COVID diagnosis,” he further added.
Despite such efforts, the number of new cases has still not decreased and the maximum number of cases are coming from these zones. This raises questions about the efficacy of such missions. But Utture is optimistic. “After launching these two missions, we may be able to contain this disease to some extent. We are already seeing these results in the main city because these two missions have been launched approximately three weeks back
and we can see the number of cases reducing. But more importantly, we find that there is early diagnosis of the disease and the COVID affected, symptomatic patients are being sent to hospitals and are being treated at an early stage. This is reflected in the number of deaths, which has fallen to 58 per day from 150.”
He believes that the two missions will prove to be crucial in containing the disease in Mumbai. “I hope this government launches the similar missions in all the other regions of Maharashtra also, because even if we control it in Mumbai and we find that the cases in the interiors of Maharashtra are on the increase, a second wave will come after travel restrictions are lifted.Today, if you see, the average growth rate [of the number of cases] in Mumbai is 1.5%. The regions where the growth rates of 3.3-3.8% were seen have been chosen by MCGM for these two missions.”
Utture points out that the fatality rate continues to remain high at around 5%, even though the doubling period has eased to 45 days.
“We have to bring down the fatality rate. That should be our main aim and this can be done only by universal testing and treating and isolating patients at an early stage.”.
Dr A M Deshmukh, President, Microbiologists Society of India and former Professor & Head of Dept. of Microbiology at Dr Babasaheb Ambedkar Marathwada University in Aurangabad feels the chances of achieving zero cases are low. “Mission Zero is a good step to create confidence in the public and mission Universal Testing is very essential for tracing and isolating the patients. However, the mission to zero is impossible seeing the current situation,” he said.