Mumbai identified as many as 77 containment zones for covid-19 to curtail the spread of the virus. People living in these zones, areas where a patient or his close contacts may have tested positive, are barred from stepping out.
The measure comes after authorities discovered that a religious gathering in early March in Delhi’s Nizamuddin area triggered a rash of covid-19 infections across India. Several other coronavirus hotspots including Noida, Mysuru, Bengaluru, Mumbai, Pune, Kerala and Rajasthan’s Bhilwara, have also emerged, worrying the government.
Public health officials are working to stop community transmission of the virus in a bid to prevent the country’s already stretched hospitals and health workers from being overwhelmed by the number of cases. Although aggressive confinement orders and contact tracing have yielded results in South Korea and China, the task of tracing contacts of all those infected may prove to be a tough task in India, where migrant workers, facing starvation, have set off for their villages hundreds of miles away on foot.
“We want to contain the infection to these clusters,” Dr Anup Kumar Yadav, Maharashtra state health commissioner, said in a phone interview. “We are trying to seal the boundaries of these clusters and do house-to-house surveys so that all cases can be identified and treated.”
Maharashtra has sealed all localities with 3-4 or more cases, he said.
Meanwhile, authorities in Delhi are working round the clock to cleanse the Nizamuddin area, Delhi deputy chief Manish Sisodia said on Wednesday. More than 2,300 people have been evacuated in the past 36 hours from the building where the meeting was held, he added.
Of the 152 positive cases in Delhi, 53 are from Nizamuddin. People who were exposed to infections have, however, travelled to states as far afield as Jammu and Kashmir, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal, Telangana, Andaman and Nicobar Islands and Andhra Pradesh.
“Such clusters or hotspots are the key to containing the spread of the virus at this stage. One thing we know for sure is that this virus travels very fast and there is rapid transmission, so if strict measures are not taken, it could have serious implications,” said Dr Abdul Gaffur, infectious diseases expert at Apollo Hospital, Chennai.
“Such gatherings should not have been allowed to take place. We need to focus on mitigation, and that can be done if there is strict adherence to the lockdown and social distancing measures,” said Dr Gaffur.
Covid-19 has an incubation period of 14 days, which means if someone is infected, it could take up to two weeks for the symptoms to show. But during the period, the infected person will shed the virus and transmit it to others. Experts recommend rigorous containment measures in such hotspots.
The message seems to be getting through to authorities.
In Karnataka, at least five districts, including Bengaluru, will be termed as ‘red zones’ that house a large number of covid-19 positive cases and has a higher number of people in home quarantine,state medical education minister K.Sudhakar said.
The colour coding comes amid a spike in positive cases in Bengaluru and the rest of the state, taking the total to 105 that includes eight people, who have completely recovered and three people who have died.
Karnataka state police clamped down on the movement of all vehicles except essential service providers even as state capital Bengaluru emerged among the top seven places in the country for coronavirus infections, with 48 cases of covid-19.
“This is not an April Fool’s prank. Two/four wheelers are banned from use till the 14th of April. We will seize your vehicle if you cease to ignore this lockdown regulation,” state police chief Praveen Sood said on Twitter.
The number of infections in Mysuru, which has been identified as a covid-19 hotspot, has been growing with the heritage city recording as many as 16 cases till Wednesday afternoon.
The Karnataka government said that it has contacted and screened 800 out of the total 1500 from the state who are associated with the Tablighi Jamaat, the congregation in Delhi that led to a flare up of infections.
Over the past few days, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana have also emerged as major clusters of covid-19. As many as 43 new positive cases were reported from Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday.
In Telangana, two major clusters have emerged: Hyderabad and Karimnagar district. Authorities have tracked down 600 people in Hyderabad alone who attended the Delhi event. Karimnagar emerged as a cluster after 10 Indonesian nationals travelled there from Nizamuddin.
In Kerala, which has been among the most infected states, the transmission mainly appears to have originated in Naif, a former camel market that is now one of the busiest and most crowded commercial markets in Dubai, according to a state health department official, who did not want to be named. Nearly 70% of the 215 active patients in Kerala have links to Naif.
In Rajasthan, Bhilwara has emerged as a hotspot over the past month due to a lack of vigilance at a private hospital, but all-out efforts by state authorities, including house-to-house surveys, have helped slow the spread, said D.B. Gupta, chief secretary, government of Rajasthan.
The Union health ministry has been asking states to identify the hotspots and work out containment measures.
Yunus Y. Lasania from Hyderabad, Sharan Poovanna from Bengaluru, Pretika Khanna and Srishti Choudhary from New Delhi and Nidheesh M.K. from Ernakulam contributed to this story.