From being a coronavirus hotspot to a successful containment model, Mumbai’s Dharavi, the largest slum in Asia, has managed to flatten the curve. Even the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised the efforts taken by the authorities to contain the spread of Covid-19 in one of the most densely populated areas in the world.
In an interview with Outlook’s Jyotika Sood, IAS officer Dr Sanjay Mukherjee, Medical Education Secretary, Maharashtra, details how the authorities fought against all odds to contain the spread of coronavirus in Dharavi. Edited excerpts:
What is the mantra for Dharavi’s success?
Dharavi containment success is an example of clinical management. In April, when the case count started rising in Dharavi, the authorities started aggressive testing, isolating, and quarantining potential cases. People were put under different Covid Care centres. For example, people under quarantine were in Covid Care Centres marked as CCC 1, those who were asymptomatic or had mild symptoms were kept in CCC2, and serious patients were kept under Clinical Management.
The biggest concern and the main reason behind a rise in cases in Dharavi was community toilets. So the civic authorities started sanitising community toilets almost every hour. That’s what helped fight the Covid battle. Now, the Bombay Municipal Corporation (BMC) has been asked to study what helped turn Dharavi’s story around.
Maharashtra continues to remain the worst-hit state in the country. Why is the situation this bad?
The situation is not bad; the spike in cases is due to increased testing. The more sample the state tests, the more positive cases come out. The administration is following the Indian Council of Medical Research’s (ICMR) guidelines on testing. It is important to track, trace and isolate early. That’s the only way you save people.
Maharashtra government recently launched Project Platina. Tell us more about it.
Project Platina is world’s largest convalescent plasma therapy trial-cum-project to treat Covid patients with severe symptoms. We will be taking a sample size of 500 patients across the state and 21 medical colleges will be conducting these trials. The entire plasma therapy treatment will be free of cost. The trial will give robust data regarding the role of convalescent plasma treatment. We also plan to study Monoclonal antibodies against Covid-19 during the project.
How is Platina different from ICMR’s PLACID trials?
Under Project Platina, severe Covid-19 patients will be given plasma therapy. Under the PLACID trial, only mild and moderate cases will be given plasma therapy. Our sample sizes are also different, it’s 500 for Platina and 452 for PLACID. Maharashtra’s experience in management of severe cases has been very effective. So, we are confident of undertaking this project.
We have also decided to set up a department of transfusion medicine and later provide a MD course in transfusion medicine to prepare for the future where many such Covid-19 infections could be at play.
Are people coming forward to donate plasma?
The response has been positive. We have made plasma donation a volunteer-based movement where these donors are being called Plasma Yodhas. We had enough plasma to start the project in 21 centres.