India warned to prepare for an outbreak after first coronavirus death reported in one of Asia’s biggest slums

India warned to prepare for an outbreak after first coronavirus death reported in one of Asia’s biggest slums
Source: Earth Trekkers

Doctors in India warn that the country needs to prepare for a surge of COVID-19 cases after a 56-year-old man died from the coronavirus in Mumbai’s Dharavi Slum.

Kiran Dighavkar, an official with Mumbai’s Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), told CNN that the man had no history of having traveled and died in transit to a local hospital mere hours after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

Seven of the victim’s family members have been tested and are being quarantined at home until they receive their test results. Officials have sealed off 300 homes and 90 shops in the vicinity.

Dharavi slum is home to 1 million people

With a million residents, the Dharavi slum is one of the largest in Asia, with a population density 30 times greater than that of New York City.

In such close quarters, social distancing is almost impossible, with eight to 10 people often sharing a single room in the slum.

Public health officials said it was vital that authorities are aware of whether a slum has an outbreak so proper mitigation measures can be put in place.

“Once we know that one slum has got it, and we lock it down, and we feed everybody and we keep them isolated for the next two weeks, we keep them well fed, it will work its way out. We will know the critical ones, and the ones who are mild, they can be quarantined at home, and the population at large can be monitored," said Dr. Naresh Trehan, the Chairman and Managing Director of the Medanta – the Medicity hospital in Gurugram, near India’s capital, New Delhi.

The slum’s lack of sanitation and running water, as well as the cramped living quarters, would likely make an outbreak devastating and incredibly difficult to manage.

Cases linked to religious event

Indian authorities are currently tracking the attendees of a religious event organized by the Muslim missionary movement Tablighi Jamaat in New Delhi.

The religious gathering took place from March 13-15, before the Indian government had recognized COVID-19 as an emergency, and was attended by nationals from more than 10 countries.  

Many of the visitors traveled to India on tourist visas to attend and seven of those who were at the gathering died while 24 people who were staying at the movement’s headquarters tested positive for the virus.

The gathering has been labeled a “super spreader” event.


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