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)
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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.


Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

Updated 59 min 12 sec ago

Philippine trash trawlers earn little from virus-boosted surge in plastics

MANILA: Virgilio Estuesta has picked through trash in the Philippines’ biggest city for four decades, and is noticing an unusually large amount of plastics during his daily trawl of about 15 km (9.3 miles).
Tough curbs re-imposed to combat a surge in daily coronavirus infections are squeezing income for the 60-year-old, as many of the junkyards and businesses in Manila that buy his recyclables have been closed since March.
Plastic items, such as bottles and containers, dominate the contents of the rickety wooden cart Estuesta pushes through the deserted streets, far more than metals and cardboard, yet the money they bring in is not enough to get by.
“It’s been really hard for us, it’s been difficult looking for recyclables that sell high,” he said.
“Recently we’ve been seeing a lot more plastics, but the problem is they don’t really sell high.”
Environmentalists say the Philippines is battling one of the world’s biggest problems stemming from single-use plastics, and ranks among the biggest contributors to plastic pollution of the oceans. It has no reliable data for its plastics consumption.
Greenpeace campaigner Marian Ledesma said consumers and businesses are now using yet more single-use plastics, in a bid to ward off virus infections.
“The pandemic has really increased plastic pollution,” she added. “Just because there’s a lot more people using disposables now, due to misconceptions and fears around transmitting the virus.”
Since March 16, Manila has experienced lockdowns of varying levels of severity, in some of the world’s longest and tightest measures to curb the spread of the virus.
They are taking a toll on Estuesta, who hopes to start earning soon.
“When you go out, the police will reprimand you,” he said. “I was stuck at home and had to rely on government aid, which was not enough. I had to resort to borrowing money from people.”