57% of Mumbai’s Slum Dwellers Had Covid-19. Why That Actually Might Be Good News


57% of Mumbai’s Slum Dwellers Had Covid-19. Why That Actually Might Be Good News

Illustration: Robin Chakraborty

Mumbai has been one of the worst affected cities by the coronavirus outbreak. A strict lockdown has been in effect since March, keeping most of its residents confined to their homes. But that doesn’t seem to have stopped the infection in its tracks.

According to a recent sero-survey conducted in the city, the number of residents who have been exposed to the virus is as high as 57 per cent in the densely populated slum areas, and 16 per cent in residential areas.

While this may sound like a cause for concern, at first, experts say that it’s actually good news, because it implies that a large part of the population has already developed antibodies, and immunity from the virus.

The authors of the sero-survey, which was conducted by BMC, NITI Aayog and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR), also found that — given the new-found prevalence of the disease — the fatality rate was much lower than initially predicted.

The revised fatality rate, going by the survey, may now be “as low as 0.05 to 0.10 per cent”, as opposed to an estimated five per cent a month earlier.

The results also seem to indicate that a majority of the patients infected in Mumbai are asymptomatic, a press release by the BMC said. Additional municipal commissioner Ashwini Bhide, asked whether this meant we had moved closer to “herd immunity”.

However, the sero-survey didn’t fully answer that question, saying that it was “still unclear what level of prevalence leads to herd immunity”.

“Our findings indicated that at least in slums it could be attained sooner than later if the immunity exists,” the report goes on to add.

The suvey was conducted on over 6,000 residents, in the Dahisar, Chembur and Matunga BMC wards. A second survey will be conducted on the same respondents in a month to get a better understanding of the disease’s transmission, Dr Ullas Kolthur-Seetharam, from the TIFR was quoted as saying.

Until then, it looks like Mumbai finally has something to cheer about. Over four months after the pandemic put life on hold for the foreseeable future, the city seems to finally be making some progress, even if it isn’t going exactly how we expected it to.