MUMBAI: In view of the coronavirus outbreak, a local NGO has written a letter to Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray, demanding that office-bearers of all housing societies in Mumbai be given the responsibility of monitoring the health of their members.
If the housing society office-bearers fail to report to health authorities about coronavirus cases, they should be held criminally liable, Harmony Foundation chairman Dr Abraham Mathai said in his letter.
He said due to "lack of testing facilities", only symptomatic cases at the airport were being sent to the Kasturba Hospital here for coronavirus test.
However, majority of the people who are asymptomatic are sent from the airport to their respective homes for self- quarantine which needs to be monitored, the former vice-chairman of minorities commission said.
"Maharashtra is leading with maximum number of cases reported in India and we are supposedly in phase-2 of spread of the viral infection, according to medical experts.
The transition from phase 2 to 3 is critical as it can either escalate into a community transmission or de-escalate on account of the preventive measures taken by all of us," he said.
In a city like Mumbai, with small flats being inadequate for proper quarantine, it is important to involve all local housing societies and Advanced Locality Management (ALM) in this fight against COVID-19, Mathai said.
As it is now a known fact that majority people are asymptomatic in the beginning, it is important to make the chairman or secretary or the managing committee of a housing society responsible to visit each and every house and report the status to the local health officer, he said.
This should be a mandatory duty and the chairman or secretary should be held criminally responsible in the event of a case not reported, Mathai said.
There should be a daily update given by the society office-bearers to designated local civic health officers either directly or through ALM, he said.
Holding housing society office-bearers responsible is the only way to keep a tab on people who are asymptomatic in the beginning, as it is not possible for the municipal health officers to micro-manage this, he said.
Considering the official figures nationally "may not be actually true" as a majority of the coronavirus carriers are asymptomatic and cannot be detected in the beginning, maximum care and caution should be exercised to contain and curb its spread at this time, he said in the letter.
Talking to PTI, Mathai said, "If we don't do what we are supposed to do, our situation could become like China or Italy, for that matter. A lapse on part of the society office-bearers should be treated as a criminal offence in these times by issuing a special Act."
If criminal liability is put on office-bearers of the housing societies, they will be compelled to do their duty, he opined.
"I have also sent this letter to all municipal commissioners in Maharashtra and I believe they will implement my suggestions immediately in the interest of the nation," he added.
The total number of coronavirus positive patients in Maharashtra has risen to 74 with 10 more positive cases reported in the last 24 hours, officials said on Sunday.
Of the 10 new cases, 6 are in Mumbai and 4 in Pune, they said.
Two deaths have also been reported in the state, both from Mumbai.