COVID-19: Does Kolkata face community transmission

Strictest form of containment, super-lockdown, will be imposed in Kolkata’s 110 areas across 57 wards, according to a govt source

By Jayanta Basu
Published: Tuesday 21 April 2020
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Community transmission of the novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 may have begun in some parts of Kolkata and adjoining Howrah and North 24 Parganas districts — the three top hotspots in West Bengal — according to a government source.

The strictest form of containment — super-lockdown — will be imposed in Kolkata’s 110 areas across 57 wards soon, the source claimed.

Experts pointed out that people living in containment zones, also called micro spots or high-risk areas, will not be allowed to come out of their houses or go beyond the zone that will be entirely sealed. Many such zones include slum areas.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee recently said COVID-19 had spread to major parts of Kolkata Municipal Corporation and Howrah as well as adjoining North 24 Parganas.

“Things are now at a very bad stage,” the CM had said, warning of higher incidence of COVID-19 cases if “transmission from families reached the community”.

West Bengal recorded two COVID-19 cases a day in the last week of March. The number, however, skyrocketed to 25 in the week ending on April 19.

On April 20, 54 people tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 in the state. A total of 392 cases were recorded as on April 21 morning — most in Kolkata, followed by Howrah and North 24 Parganas. 

At least 13 of the 16 boroughs in Kolkata are under seize; boroughs 13, 14 and 16 (Haridebpur, Behala and Joka) haven’t recorded any case so far.

“Not a single person tested positive for the virus in entire Behala,” said Behala MLA Partha Chatterjee. 

The spread, however, is high in north and central Kolkata and in boroughs seven and eight that cover a large part of central Kolkata as well as south and southeast Kolkata.

Slum areas may be particularly vulnerable. While Lal Maidan slum in north Kolkata’s Belgachia is the hardest hit, sprawling slums in Kashipur, Park Circus, Garden reach, Metiaburuz and Tiljala areas are also affected.

“It is difficult to keep slum dwellers inside their houses. There is a paucity of space,” said Smita Bakshi, chairman borough IV, Kolkata Municipal Corporation.

Bakshi pointed out how a suspected COVID-19 patient from a slum tried to flee when the police took him for testing.

“We have prepared a containment plan for about 110 points in the city, but the situation is quickly changing. We have small containment zones as of now. We will increase their number if more infections from the area are found,” said an expert associated with the state health department.

“Government should try to conduct as many tests as possible in the affected areas to ascertain if the infection has reached community transmission stage,” said Professor Arunabha Majumdar, public health expert formerly associated with All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health.

State government sources claimed they have begun rapid testing.

Senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya, meanwhile, took a dig at the Trinamool Congress government.

“We requested the government to carry out as many tests as possible at least two weeks ago. But their failure led to COVID-19 spread in Kolkata and adjoining areas,” he said.

Trinamool rajya Sabha member Santanu Sen, however, claimed the state government undertook testing according to the protocol laid out by Indian Council of Medical Research.

Bhattacharya added that community transmission “may have started” as patients from the slum areas were being increasingly tested positive for SARS-CoV-2.


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