A Racecourse & a Planetarium With Covid-19 History: Famous Mumbai Landmarks Are Now Temp Hospitals


A Racecourse & a Planetarium With Covid-19 History: Famous Mumbai Landmarks Are Now Temp Hospitals

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

Ever since India entered a nationwide lockdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus in March, the country’s crowded cities have worn a deserted look. In Mumbai, known as the city that never sleeps, many shops lining the streets have had their shutters down and the roads, so often choked with vehicular traffic, have appeared mostly empty except for a few citizens going about their business. And now, as the state braces for a peak in its number of positive Covid-19 cases, some of Mumbai’s most recognisable landmarks have also been transformed into isolation centres to treat patients.

Early in May, reports emerged of the city authorities plan to prepare 76,000 beds for patients throughout the city. This included places like Mahalaxmi Racecourse, Nehru Science Centre, Nehru Planetarium, Mahim Nature Park, and National Sports Club of India (NSCI), all spots that were earlier used as recreational spaces by the people of the city. That plan has been put into motion, and now, many of Mumbai’s most famous locations are the site of modular hospitals engaged in treating patients with Covid-19.

Aditya Thackeray, Shiv Sena leader and Member of Parliament, recently went on a round of visits to these newly set-up centres, inspecting the facilities and checking their readiness to receive patients. One of these was at Mahalaxmi Racecourse, where the parking lot has been converted into an isolation centre with a capacity of 300 beds, with plans to add 500 more.

Mahim Nature Park, a spot of green in the heart of Mumbai’s concrete jungle, was also converted into a centre to house patients, particularly those from the densely populated slum of Dharavi. At the moment, the facility has 400 beds, but there are plans to increase that number to 1,200.

Another new isolation centre that has come up is at NSCI – a venue that would formerly host music concerts, theatre events, and exhibitions. The domed stadium now has 600 beds, with provisions also in place for patients that require Intensive Care Unit beds.

Meanwhile, Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC), where many multinational companies and banks have offices, has also been used as a site to house patients with Covid-19 symptoms. Work has begun in BKC on the construction of a 1,000-bed facility, which can be scaled up to 5,000 beds should the need arise.

Other spots where medical facilities have been set up include NESCO grounds. However, the plan to convert open spaces has not gone unopposed. It was reported that Mumbai’s iconic cricket ground, Wankhede Stadium, was also going to be used to house Covid-19 patients, but the impending monsoon and opposition from local residents prompted the authorities to abandon Wankhede Stadium as a possible location.

Coronavirus has altered the way Mumbai operates, and now it is even changing the very face of the city.