On April 1, when the novel coronavirus pandemic struck Dharavi, Asia's largest slum, it sounded alarm bells for both the Brihan Mumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and the Uddhav Thackeray-led Maharashtra government. Located in south-central Mumbai, Dharavi has over 5 lakh people crammed up in a 2.25 square km area.

No other place in the whole wide world posed a bigger challenge than Dharavi when it came to curbing the transmission of this new variant of the coronavirus that has a knack of spreading rapidly.

In April itself, the total number of COVID-19 cases in the area shot up to 491, at a growth rate of 12 per cent and a doubling period of 18 days. The figures continued to rise in the following weeks and Dharavi was declared the "red-hotspot of the pandemic."

But, going against all odds, Dharavi made a dramatic return in the ongoing war against the fatal virus. A series of stringent measures and combat strategies brought down the growth rate to 4.3 per cent in May and to 1.02 per cent in June. Similarly, the doubling time improved from 18 days in April to 43 days in May and then 78 days in June.

Here's how the 'Dharavi Model' was pulled off

To deal with the worsening situation in Dharavi, the BMC switched to the 'Chase the Virus' mode with the concept of 4 Ts - Tracing, Tracking, Testing and Treating. Accordingly, the entire area was turned into a containment zone and remained isolated from the rest of Mumbai for around 100 days.

  • The civic body conducted proactive home-to-home screening with the help of a number of health teams. A total of 5,48,270 residents were surveyed scrupulously, out of which around 8,246 senior citizens were identified and separated to arrest any infections. All the private medicos, clinics and hospitals were mobilized and each member of the health teams was provided with full PPE kits and other equipment.
  • The suspected cases were immediately shifted to well-organized COVID Care Centres or Quarantine Centres, set up in schools, marriage halls, sports complexes and served by community kitchens with 24x7 medical services at hand.
  • As part of the effective containment strategy, there was an uninterrupted supply of essential goods and supplies to the local community and only critical patients were shifted to hospitals while 90 per cent got full treatment within the slum area.
  • The BMC distributed over 25,000 grocery kits, 21,000 lunch and dinner food packets. The local elected representatives also supplied foodstuffs and PPE kits free of cost, thereby eliminating the need for people to move out of their homes.
  • There was frequent large-scale sanitization of the containment zones or sealed localities, public toilets and the buses which were operated for staff movement. The BMC also appointed local community leaders as 'COVID Yoddhas' to serve as a link with the authorities and dispel any fears or concerns of their members.
    Dharavi slum

Besides the health personnel, the police, CRPF, some NGOs and other social activists too played a role in loosening COVID-19's stranglehold on Dharavi. The people of the densely populated area also fully cooperated with the authorities and strictly adhered to the guidelines issued to them.

With only two new COVID-19 patients being detected on Saturday, Dharavi's coronavirus tally currently stands at 2,311, with 519 active cases and over 80 deaths.