India’s Mumbai braces for monsoon diseases amid strain of a pandemic

Government-run hospitals showed Mumbai recorded about 32,000 malaria and dengue cases in 2018. (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 12 June 2020

India’s Mumbai braces for monsoon diseases amid strain of a pandemic

  • Cases of malaria, dengue, leptospirosis and encephalitis are expected to soar in coming months
  • Mumbai has been hit the hardest by COVID-19

MUMBAI: For doctors and health care workers in India’s financial capital Mumbai who are grappling with surging coronavirus infections, the onset of the annual monsoon poses a serious threat — a new wave of patients with vector-borne diseases.
Already stretched by a shortage of medics and critical care beds, the situation in Mumbai might turn uglier, health experts warn, as cases of malaria, dengue, leptospirosis and encephalitis are expected to soar in coming months.
“Mumbai will be dealing with a crisis in the monsoon,” said Kamakshi Bhate, professor emeritus of community medicine at the state-run King Edward Memorial Hospital in Mumbai, noting there is typically a surge in hospital bed occupancy due to such diseases during India’s annual June-September monsoon season.
Water-logged streets are a common sight every monsoon across India. But in Mumbai, its most populous city, monsoons can often bring life to a standstill with flooding and water-logging, and result in a surge of diseases.
In a report, local NGO Praja Foundation said official data from only government-run hospitals showed Mumbai recorded about 32,000 malaria and dengue cases in 2018, but the NGO said its own household survey indicated more than 200,000 cases of just those two diseases in the city that year.
This year the city’s hospitals are already overrun. Mumbai has been hit the hardest by COVID-19. About 25 percent of India’s 297,535 coronavirus cases and roughly 29 percent of the 8,498 deaths recorded have come from the city and its surrounding suburbs.
Suresh Kakani, an additional commissioner at Mumbai’s civic authority, said it was asking clinics and dispensaries, some of which had shut during a two-month long nationwide lockdown, to re-open.
Drains are being cleaned and stored water in houses were being inspected for larvae, Kakani said, adding that while major hospitals were on treating COVID patients, smaller nursing homes would be available to handle other cases.
But, with local hospitals already strained by significant staff shortages, heath experts fear the spread of diseases in Mumbai’s slums could compound issues for a health care network already reeling from COVID-19 cases.
“We have a number of slums in low-lying areas and they are prone to flooding and disease,” said Brinelle D’Souza, a health activist with Jan Swasthya Abhiyan, a local non-governmental organization.
D’Souza said that while many isolation beds were available for patients with mild COVID-19 symptoms, the city, home to about 20 million people, needed substantially more critical care beds with oxygen supplies and ventilators.


UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

Updated 31 October 2020

UK PM Boris Johnson locks down England as COVID-19 cases pass 1 million

  • Lockdown starts just after midnight on Thursday morning
  • United Kingdom has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19

LONDON: Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered England back into a national lockdown after the United Kingdom passed the milestone of one million COVID-19 cases and a second wave of infections threatened to overwhelm the health service.
The United Kingdom, which has the biggest official death toll in Europe from COVID-19, is grappling with more than 20,000 new coronavirus cases a day and scientists have warned the “worst case” scenario of 80,000 dead could be exceeded.
Johnson, at a hastily convened news conference in Downing Street after news of a lockdown leaked to local media, said that the one-month lockdown across England would kick in at a minute past midnight on Thursday morning and last until Dec. 2.
In some of the most onerous restrictions in Britain’s peacetime history, people will only be allowed to leave home for specific reasons such as education, work, exercise, shopping for essentials and medicines or caring for the vulnerable.
“Now is the time to take action because there is no alternative,” Johnson said, flanked by his chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, and his chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance.
The government will revive its emergency coronavirus wage subsidy scheme to ensure workers who are temporarily laid off during a new England-wide lockdown receive 80% of their pay.
Essential shops, schools, and universities will remain open, Johnson said. Pubs and restaurants will be shut apart from for takeaways. All non-essential retail will close.
Johnson’s imposition of stricter curbs came after scientists warned the outbreak was going in the wrong direction and that action was needed to halt the spread of the virus if families were to have any hope of gathering at Christmas.
Johnson was criticized by political opponents for moving too slowly into the first national lockdown, which stretched from March 23 to July 4. He fell ill with COVID in late March and was hospitalized in early April.
The measures bring England into alignment with France and Germany by imposing nationwide restrictions almost as severe as the ones that drove the global economy this year into its deepest recession in generations.
So far the United Kingdom has reported 46,555 COVID-19 deaths — defined as those dying within 28 days of a positive test. A broader death measure of those with COVID-19 on their death certificates gives the toll as 58,925.
The United Kingdom has the world’s fifth largest official death toll, after the United States, Brazil, India and Mexico, according to a Johns Hopkins University tally.