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Inside Ahmedabad's 'virus chasing' approach to Covid-19

As Ahmedabad sees an exponential rise in Covid-19 cases, Vijay Nehra, the city's municipal commissioner, says he has a proactive plan in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus

Naandika Tripathi
Published: May 5, 2020 09:34:25 AM IST
Updated: May 5, 2020 09:35:18 AM IST

Inside Ahmedabad's 'virus chasing' approach to Covid-19Vijay Nehra, Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner
Image: Mayur D Bhat

In a short span, Gujarat overtook Delhi in terms of the total number of Covid-19 cases and became a coronavirus hotspot second only to Maharashtra. Ahmedabad, with over 2,700 positive cases and 135 deaths, has seen 90 percent of the cases in the state as of April 30. However, Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra tells Forbes India that the situation is under control. Edited excerpts:

Q. What is the reason for the spike in Covid-19 cases in Ahmedabad?
Since the virus has come from abroad, mega cities like Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad with a dense population have been affected. Ahmedabad is 600 years old, so there is heavy population in the old city where a large number of families live in small houses, making social distancing almost impossible. Also a lot of people returned from overseas in March, so mega cities became natural targets for the virus to spread.

Q. What is being done to contain the spread of the virus?
From April 9, we have adopted a ‘chasing the virus’ approach. We are on the field, proactively identifying as many cases as possible instead of waiting for them to be reported. We have put in place a big surveillance effort which is backed by aggressive testing on the lines of South Korea. We’ve done five times the number of tests that Japan has.

Q. How does the proactive surveillance work?
We have formed more than 700 teams which visit all the zones and wards in the city every day. We’re specifically targeting areas with dense population, slums, especially old city areas, and doing intensive surveillance there. Also we’ve formed about 50 teams which personally visit houses and collect samples for tests. We’ve started mobile sample collection and screening vans. Also we’re implementing a 3S strategy: Super spreaders, senior citizens and slum areas will be our focus.

Q. What is the plan to increase quarantine facilities in the city?
Much before the World Health Organization declared it a pandemic, we had got our first case in Ahmedabad. We had anticipated that there will be a surge in cases, so we prepared 10,000 beds for quarantine facility. In March, 6,000 people came from abroad who had to be quarantined. So we requisitioned several clubs and three-star hotels to develop quarantine facilities. Now we’ve started to convert those facilities into Covid care centers.

Q. By when will the number of cases come under control?
The situation is under control. Those 6,000 people could have led to lakhs of cases, but it didn’t happen. We were looking at humongous numbers by end of May. If the rate of doubling continues, the city could have 50,000 Covid-19 cases by May 15 and 8 lakh by May 31. My focus in on ensuring that people behave in a responsible manner after the lockdown ends. They should not think ‘everything
is over’.

(This story appears in the 22 May, 2020 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)

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