MUMBAI: Among the 18,000 conservancy workers put through antigen tests in the last few days, 144, or 0.8%, have been found with Covid-19. This is an indication that despite more probable exposure to the virus than other workers, they have remained largely unaffected.
The highest number of conservancy workers found positive (18) in antigen tests are from G-North ward (Dharavi, Dadar, Mahim), followed by D ward (Malabar Hill Walkeshwar, Nana Chowk) with 17. Eleven each were in G-South (Worli, Prabhadevi, Lower Parel), S (Bhandup), and N (Ghatkopar) wards. Conservancy workers are the ones who keep the city clean, including containment zones. Since the time the pandemic reached the city, they have been at their work after adopting some basic precautionary measures.

The BMC has been testing these workers — mostly sweepers and garbage collectors — under the normal compulsory testing processes to access viral spread among frontline workers. BMC officials said a good sign is that despite an increase in testing, the positivity rate among those tested has been reducing. Since the last four days, the BMC and private entities have conducted over 10,000 tests a day in Mumbai. Half of these are antigen tests and the remaining real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests, the gold standard for Covid-19 detection.
While a positive result in the antigen test is definitive for Covid-19, a negative result cannot be relied upon — as has been reported by TOI earlier. A person testing negative in the test further must undergo an RT-PCR test to know for certain if he or she has the virus. But civic officials said that since conservancy workers are being tested “for an idea about the spread of the virus despite them not being symptomatic”, those who cone negative on the antigen test will not underdo the RT-PCR test for confirmation.
They said the daily number of RT-PCR tests is over 5,000 for the last few days, but the positivity rate is 23%. In comparison, during the first half of July, the BMC’s daily RT-PCR testing number was below 5,000, and the positivity rate was over 25%. The positivity rate of the antigen test is 3% of the total conducted tests. Although there has been a minor reduction in the RTPCR positivity percent, if combined with antigen tests, the rate reduces to 13%. On July 31, a total of 10,554 Covid-19 tests were conducted in the city, of which 5,127 were antigen and 5,427 were RT-PCR. The BMC is testing all frontline workers, including over 28,000 conservancy staff, around 10,000 health workers and cops through the antigen method even if they are not symptomatic.

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