KOLKATA: About 15% of the Covid-19 cases in Kolkata are from slums and the remaining from high-rises and standalone houses, a KMC report submitted to Nabanna has said. The pattern throws up a curious contrast given the fact that a third of the city lives in slums, the most densely populated among these spread across 27 KMC wards. It also reverses an early April trend in which slums accounted for the most positive cases in Kolkata.
A separate KMC daily report for June 27 also bears out this trend: on that day, 14 of the 128 people who tested positive were from slums. Not more than two cases were from the slums in Lockgate, Ultadanga and Dhapa, although six people refused to provide their details.
Between May 6 and June 27, KMC collected 14,008 random swab samples, a bulk of these from the slums, and 267 of these were found to be positive, the report submitted to the government shows. This indicates that the percentage of positive cases out of the samples tested was 1.9% compared to the Bengal average of 3.6%.
According to KMC officials, extensive micro-planning helped contain the spread in the slums, from the Belgachhia outbreak in early April to the late-June cluster outbreak in Bagbazar. This is borne out by the sample positivity rates in these affected zones where, for the last month-and-a-half, KMC mobile units have been picking up over 50 swab samples every day and getting these tested at SSKM hospital.
The Belgachhia containment model that was adopted elsewhere had involved extensive contact tracing, strict restriction on movement, especially of asymptomatic direct contacts of hospitalised Covid patients who were provided doorstep delivery of essentials by police and civic staff, and door-to-door SARI and ILI surveillance. Belgachhia is the city’s largest slum and home to over 50,000 people.
Shantanu Sen, MP and adviser to KMC, said: “We have been conducting intensive micro-surveillance for the past three weeks. Seventeen slums have been identified as special cases. The idea is to identify and treat ILI and SARI cases early. The viral load must be reduced. If that is done, the caseload will automatically reduce. HCQ is being used for its prophylactic properties. We aim to bring down the slum cases further.”
Sen, a former IMA president, added that people in the slums were being “extremely cooperative”.
Given the shared amenities – a single drinking water outlet catering to nearly eight slum households and 5-8 people cramming into a single unit – home isolation of Covid positive patients in slums will be counter-productive, health officials realised. Positive cases are, therefore, being sent to government quarantine facilities in Rajarhat and Baltikuri in Howrah.
“There was some resistance initially but now we sense a lot of cooperation and acceptance that this is for their own good,” Sanjay Thade, KMC’s nodal officer for Covid, said.
According to health officials, surveillance teams have already visited 18.46 lakh households — some houses more than once — and 750 dedicated teams are providing medicines at these houses. The KMC has provided HCQs to 32,435 persons and homeopathic medicine to another 14,000 who have requested for it, including those in home-quarantine.