Mumbai’s Dharavi reported its first novel Coronavirus casualty on Wednesday. The victim was a 56-year-old man with no travel history. But what has made the incident more alarming is the immense potential COVID-19 spreading in Asia’s largest and most crowded slum cluster that houses over a million people.
Experts say that contact tracing is the only way to prevent infections from multiplying in crowded places.
What is Contact Tracing
Contact tracing is the process of identifying, assessing and monitoring people who have been in contact with a person an infected carrying a contagious disease.
The World Health Organisation calls it crucial to provide care and treatment, including isolation and quarantine for the family and close contacts of the people they come in touch with.
In the case of COVID-19, ICMR guidelines say people exposed to the virus are to be followed for 28 days from the date of the probable last exposure.
The Dharavi Case
Contact tracing in Dharavi is a mammoth task. To start with, Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation has sealed the 300 houses and 90 shops in the SRA society, where the patient lived.
Family members and close contacts, as well as all those with respiratory illnesses, are being tested for COVID-19.
All high-risk contacts in the area have been stamped and quarantined. Thousands of health workers are trying to trace and test all those who may have come in contact with the deceased, who owned a garment shop in the area.
The Nizamuddin Markaz Case
The Dharavi case comes close on the heels of yet another India’s biggest contact tracing challenge, the Tablighi Jamaat congregation in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area.
The event, that turned into a Covid-19 hotspot, was attended by thousands of people from across India as well as other affected countries.
Even after the congregation ended, over 1500 attendees are believed to have stayed at the Nizamuddin Markaz, ignoring all Government advisories o social distancing.
Delhi health minister Satyendar Jain confirmed that 24 of them tested positive for Covid-19.
The incident triggered a sharp spike in cases across the country with 386 fresh cases being reported in the next 24 hours.
On Wednesday, the Centre asked States and Union Territories to contact trace all participants of the Tablighi Jamaat event.
The Centre also asked the States to take action against the foreign nationals who took part in the event for violating their visa conditions.
On Wednesday, Joint Secretary with the Health Ministry, Lav Agarwal said 1800 people related to the event had been quarantined at 9 hospitals.
Uttar Pradesh Police also identified and quarantined 569 people.
The Kerala Government launched a social media campaign to identify all those who took part in the Jamaat gathering.
The Telangana Government which identified 9 deaths of people linked to the Markaz gathering is trying to trace over 1000 attendees.
12 more people tested positive in Assam and one in Manipur on Wednesday. Over 440 attendees were tracked to Mumbai amid aggressive efforts to trace the rest of the potential carriers.
How Contact Tracing Helps
Combined with isolation, contact tracing, is the most effective tool to check the spread of the Coronavirus. Along with testing those with symptoms, contact tracing could help find symptomatic cases also and get them to self-isolate.
This is how countries like Singapore and South Korea have contained their outbreak of the Coronavirus.