New Delhi | Jagran News Desk: Packed in narrow lanes and stacked in cluster spaces, Dharavi which was once a COVID-19 hotspot in India’s financial capital has now become a model lauded by many to curb the spread of the virus. Asia’s largest slum, Dharavi has been a major part of discussions on the successful models to battle coronavirus. The World Health Organisation recently praised the measures adopted by authorities to contain the spread of the virus in Dharavi, calling testing and tracing to be responsible to break the chain of transmission of the highly contagious disease.  

‘Dharavi and its struggles’

One of the most densely populated areas in the world, Mumbai’s Dharavi, which is spread over 613 hectares and has over 3.6 lakh people living per sq. Km.

The worry of the spread of the virus inside Dharavi intensified after the first positive case of COVID-19 was recorded on April 1 in the locality. The virus which could be defeated with rigorous social distancing norms had a bleak chance of victory in such a densely populated space. By the end of April, a total of 491 positive cases were reported with a doubling period of 18 days. In the month of May, cases rose to 1216 with as many as 56 deaths in the slum. By the end of June, deaths in Dharavi reduced to zero and the doubling rate of infection improved from 43 days in May to 78 days in the month of June.

Within the span of three months, the continent’s most crowded slum has changed from being a COVID-19 hotspot to a potential success story.

‘What is Dharavi Model?’

According to a report by NDTV, right from April when the first case in the slum emerged, authorities knocked on 47,500 doors and measured and measured temperatures and oxygen levels, and screened almost 700,000 people in the slum cluster. Setting up a fever clinic inside the slum, testing patients became helpful for the authorities to trace the virus. Those showing symptoms were shifted to nearby schools and clubs which were converted into quarantine centres.


‘Rigorous testing is the key’

In Dharavi, where as many as eighty people share a toilet, fresh cases in the month of June came down to a third as compared in May.

In a statement to Ndtv, Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant commissioner at Mumbai's municipality, who is in charge of leading the fight in Dharavi, said, "It was next to impossible to follow social distancing. The only option then was to chase the virus rather than wait for the cases to come. To work proactively, rather than reactively."

Talking about the strategy adopted to fight the virus, Dighavkar said that we were able to isolate people at an early stage and focussing more on screening and testing, their objective was to keep the deaths limited. This approach has helped reduce mortality and improve the recovery rate in the crowded region. The assistant commissioner reveals that around 51% of Dharavi residents who test positive eventually recovered, which is better than Mumbai's 41% rate in the month of June.

‘Free Medical services’

The provision of providing medical care to the patients in the isolation centres free of cost made a significant change to increase the recovery rate. In Dharavi, which is home to nearly a million people, a strict lockdown and accessible testing also contributed hugely in getting control over the spread of the virus.

Assistant commissioner Dighavkar told Community support and trust, was used to best of its potential as people would volunteer themselves to be quarantined as soon as symptoms appeared.

"The battle can't be over until the virus has gone from the entire city, state, and country. People are quite aware now of how to be safe and I think by the time the lockdown ends, most of us may have got herd immunity. Or so we hope, " Dighavkar was quoted as saying in a report by Ndtv.

‘WHO lauds Dharavi’

Continent’s largest slum received acknowledgment and appreciation from WHO Chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus who said the examples of Italy, Spain, South Korea, and India's biggest slum showed that however bad an outbreak was, the virus could still be reined in through aggressive action on Friday.

Meanwhile, Dharavi’s battle against the virus is still far from over as the slum on Friday reported 12 new cases taking the toll of active cases at 166 while 1,952 people have been cured or discharged from the hospitals after getting recovered from the disease.  

Posted By: Simran Babbar