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Mumbai’s high Covid count due to aggressive testing but 81% cases asymptomatic: BMC chief

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File image of Praveen Pardeshi | YouTube
File image of Praveen Pardeshi | YouTube


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New Delhi: Mumbai has the highest number of confirmed Covid-19 cases in India because the metropolitan is carrying out more tests compared to other cities, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi said Tuesday at the digital version of ThePrint’s Off the Cuff.

Speaking to ThePrint’s Editor-in-Chief Shekhar Gupta, Pardeshi said while the large number of cases is worrying, the good news is that 81 per cent of the patients are asymptomatic, who are being kept in Covid care centres as they don’t need hospital care.

The city’s aggressive testing and contact tracing helped avoid a larger outbreak, the BMC chief said.

With over 3,090 positive cases as of Tuesday, Mumbai has more Covid-19 cases than any other Indian city.

“The fact that we have the largest number of cases should be correlated to the fact that comparatively speaking we have done the largest number of tests as a city,” said Pardeshi.

Pardeshi said the BMC has conducted close to 50,000 tests in Mumbai. In comparison, the state of Kerala has done only 20,000 tests till now.

The BMC’s aggressive contact tracing strategy also allowed it to identify over 81,000 close contacts of patients and isolate them. Of these, at least 5,354 people who were at high risk were shifted to quarantine facilities.

“These included people from slum areas, for whom home quarantine cannot work, because sometimes there are as many as ten people living in a room. We have put them up in lodges, away from the rest of the community,” Pardeshi said.

Identifying and quarantining over 2,500 patients at an early stage is likely to have helped prevent a much worse situation in a city that has a dense population of over 1.84 crore.

During the conversation, Pardeshi elaborated on the steps being taken to fight the outbreak of Covid-19 infection in Mumbai.


Also read: Covid-19 fight is a Test match, not a T20. Here’s what India needs to do to win


Hospital care

Of over 3,090 Covid-19 cases in the Maharashtra capital, only 40 have been critical and needed ventilator support, Praveen Pardeshi said, pointing out that only 1 per cent of the patients needed critical care.

Mumbai has a total bed capacity of over 11,000, of which only 4,400 had been used, he said, adding that the BMC is trying to increase the number of ICU beds for patients who need critical care or oxygen support.

A large number of deaths are among patients in the age group of over 50, Pardeshi said.

Mumbai has so far seen 138 deaths.

A large number of patients in this age group had hypertension and diabetes — comorbidities that increase the death risk in Covid-19 patients, according to Pardeshi, who pointed out that many deaths happened within a few hours of hospitalisation.

Hydroxychloroquine use in Dharavi

Asked to elaborate on whether anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was being administered to people in the slums of Dharavi, the BMC chief said close contacts of those tested positive for Covid-19 are being administered HCQ as a preventive measure after consultation with doctors.

Along with them, frontline health workers are also being given HCQ, which the BMC had procured in advance.

Praveen Pardeshi said he is also taking HCQ under doctor’s advice.

In an advisory dated 22 March, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) had said HCQ could be used as prophylaxis in people who were at high risk of the coronavirus infection. This included both close contacts of patients, and healthcare workers.

Epidemiologists have been asked to examine the data and ascertain whether these drugs had a benefit in preventing the disease, Pardeshi said. “Hopefully in three months we will be able to discern whether the drug had any benefits,” he added.

So far, there are no studies to show that HCQ is an effective prophylaxis against Covid-19. Moreover, the anti-malarial drug can have side effects, which is why the public is advised not to take it without prescription.


Also read: ICMR asks states to stop using rapid Covid-19 tests after complaints of patchy results


The Dharavi situation

The increase in Covid-19 cases in Dharavi is not very high and people have been cooperative, Praveen Pardeshi said, adding that if this situation is maintained for 15 days, then a further spread in the area will be prevented.

“I am keeping my fingers crossed. So far, the new positive cases are coming from contacts of patients we already identified,” he said. Contacts of those who have tested positive are being isolated at the Rajiv Gandhi Sports arena and Sai Hospital.

Instead of making the whole of Dharavi a containment zone, high risk pockets have been identified within the slums to make management easier, Pardeshi said. A network of over 6,000 CCTV cameras is keeping a watch over these areas to prevent movement of people.

The BMC has also set up ‘fever clinics’ in slum areas, where those with fever and cough are asked to come and get tested. “Through these clinics we have tested over 5,428 people, of whom 43 tested positive. These are people with no known travel or contact history,” he said.

Plasma therapy

The BMC chief said the Mumbai governing body has also started collecting blood plasma from Covid-19 patients who have recovered as some initial studies have shown that blood plasma from recovered patients contains antibodies against the infection.

Delivering blood plasma from former patients to those who are currently infected may be a promising treatment. It has already started in Delhi and Karnataka. However, Mumbai is yet to receive the required permissions from ICMR to carry out this therapy.

Meanwhile, the BMC is encouraging recovered patients to donate blood in order to create a bank for the plasma therapy. “We have already bought the machine required for separating blood plasma,” Pardeshi added.

Corporate support

Praveen Pardeshi also noted that the support of corporate entities was essential at this time, explaining that money was not the only way they could pitch in.

“All of the corporates, including Tata, Reliance and Mahindra” have stepped in with private aircraft to ensure “at least 35,000 PPEs were made available every week”, according to Pardeshi.

“The PPEs were in a factory in Tamil Nadu — we paid for them. But they had to be brought by trucks in the lockdown period,” he said, pointing out that it would take a long time for these to reach Mumbai.

“The corporates sent their airplanes to pick them up free on a daily basis,” he said. A lot of items that had to be imported from places like South Korea were brought directly to Mumbai with the help of these flights.

“A big CSR group, involving Amit Chandra, D.S. Kothari and others, has ensured that ration packages, masks, and sanitisers are delivered to over 3 lakh people in the Dharavi area,” Pardeshi said.

Grocery chains like Big Bazaar also contributed by making foodgrains available free of cost, he added.


Also read: Infection rate in 18 states offers hope but MP, Rajasthan, Bengal, Maharashtra are worries


 

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Andhra doctor, suspended for alleging PPE shortage, now beaten by cops for ‘creating nuisance’

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Bengaluru: A doctor with a government hospital in Andhra Pradesh, who was suspended for questioning the shortage of PPE kits, was admitted to a mental health facility Sunday, a day after he was allegedly manhandled by the police and arrested for creating nuisance in Visakhapatnam.

Dr Sudhakar Rao, a government civil surgeon, was beaten, his hands tied behind his back and dragged by police officers Sunday. During the incident, Sudhakar allegedly verbally abused the Jagan Mohan Reddy government in an inebriated state. Videos of the incident have since been widely shared online.

“The police control room received a call about a person creating nuisance on Beach Road Hospital in Visakhapatnam. The Fourth Town police was rushed there and found that the person was the suspended doctor, Sudhakar.

“When the police tried to control him, he snatched the mobile phone of an officer and threw it away. He is suffering from mental disorder and he was drunk. He was sent for a medical examination,” Vishakapatnam Police Commissioner R.K. Meena told the media Sunday.

Sudhakar was admitted to a mental hospital Sunday after doctors at the King George Hospital in Vishakapatnam said he suffered from anxiety.

“Since the doctor is in anxiety and talking irrelevant things, I have referred him to a mental care hospital in Visakhapatnam,” said Dr Radha Rani, medical superintendent, King George Hospital.

A statement released by the hospital said: “Dr Sudhakar was brought to the KGH casualty ward at 6.30 pm. From the smell, it was found that he was in a drunk condition. Under the influence of alcohol, he did not cooperate with anybody there and kept abusing all. Still, his pulse, BP were checked. Pulse was 98, BP 140/100. Blood samples were sent to forensic lab to ascertain alcohol content in his blood.”


Also read: 6 toilets for 20 houses, inadequate testing: Why Mumbai’s Worli chawls are a Covid hotspot


‘Treatment towards Sudhakar was inhuman’

Sudhakar, who spent more than 10 years at the Narsipatnam Government Hospital in Andhra Pradesh, was suspended from his duties in March after he openly criticised the Reddy government for failing to provide PPE kits and N95 masks to doctors treating Covid-19 patients.

He had alleged that the state government was giving N95 masks and PPE kits meant for doctors to politicians and the police.

A video of Sudhakar criticising the government was also shared widely. In the clip, he can be heard saying: “We are putting our lives at risk here. We are asked to use the same mask for 15 days and a fresh mask will be provided only twice a month.”

Speaking to ThePrint, Dr P. Gangadhar Rao, member of the National COVID Committee of the Indian Medical Association, said the manner in which Sudhakar was manhandled by the police was “inhuman” and “violated” human rights.

“We strongly condemn the way he was taken into custody. He was not carrying a weapon, he was alone, the number of policemen outnumbered him. Why treat him like that? We also saw a video where a policeman beats him with a lathi,” said Dr Gangadhar.

He added that Rao was one of the most experienced anaesthetists the Andhra Pradesh government had.

“Our next step of action is to get Sudhakar to write an unconditional apology for having used filthy language, abusing the chief minister and the government. We will then take our appeal to the CM seeking that he be reinstated,” Gangadhar said.


Also read: Face shields, gowns, masks — the new attire for cabin crew post lockdown


 

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