They are twin cities similar in soul, culture, character and even geographically. They are both the financial and fashion capitals of their respective countries— both bustling with energy, an unmatched spirit and an adventurous nightlife — the cities that never sleep!
They even have matching skylines — the tall skyscrapers of Worli as one crosses the Sea Link is reminiscent of the Manhattan skyline overlooking the Hudson River. They are both also the most populous cities of their country with a densely packed 20 million inhabitants.
Yes — that is Mumbai (Bombay) and New York for you — two mega cities, diverse and cosmopolitan and connected to each other in more ways than one.
Tragically, what joins them together, today, is panic, fear , death and destruction as the Covid-19 pandemic wreaks havoc in both the cities.
Mumbai had reported 21,267 Covid-19 cases by May 18 — a little more than one-fifth (21.2 per cent) of the total number of cases reported by India (1,00,328). New York City, on the other hand, has 1,93,000 cases — the maximum for any city in the world — which constitutes 12.44 per cent of the total number of cases in the United States. Furthermore, New York State reported 3,61,266 cases which is 23.3 per cent of the total number of cases in the country.
Mumbai and New York have been affected by the virus like no other city in their country. There is a difference of 12,584 cases between Mumbai and Ahmedabad — the second worst-hit city in India, that is, almost two-and-a-half times less number of cases. New York has 2.41 times the number of cases than New Jersey.
Mumbai has recorded 757 of the total 3,156 deaths in India — almost 24 per cent. New York accounts for 17.16 per cent of the total number of deaths in the United States with 15,786 casualties. New York alone has more deaths than all but six countries of the world.
However, there is a stark difference between the two cities when it comes to Mortality Rate (MR). Mumbai has a MR of 3.56 per cent which is just slightly higher than the national average of 3.15 per cent. New York has a very high MR of 8.18 per cent, which is substantially higher than the national average of 6.02 per cent.
Mumbai currently has a Recovery Rate of 26.12 per cent, while the corresponding number for New York State is 24.53 per cent. However, 99 per cent of the active 2,70,595 cases in New York are in mild condition and only 1 per cent (1,908) in a serious or critical condition. Thus, coupled with the fact that USA has already peaked and flattened the curve (of new cases), New York may soon see a big jump in its Recovery Rate.
Mumbai and New York are in different stages of the virus cycle. While Mumbai reported its highest surge in new cases on May 17 (1,595 cases), New York City is on the downward curve and reported just 500 cases on May 18.
It peaked on the 7th of April with 6,500 new cases and since then has constantly gone downwards. Mumbai may still see its worst days as India is only expected to peak by mid June.
While New York saw its worst day in terms of the number of fatalities on the April 7, reporting 600 deaths, Mumbai witnessed its highest spike on May 13 with 40 deaths. The first Covid-19 case in NYC was confirmed on the 1st of March in a woman who had returned from Iran, while Mumbai reported its first case on the March 11 when two people contracted the virus from a Pune couple who had tested positive after returning from Dubai.
But what has caused the infection to spread at such an alarming level in these cities?
Both cities are densely populated. While NYC has close to 10,000 inhabitants in one square kilometre area, the corresponding number for Mumbai is a staggering 32,303! It is impossible to maintain social distancing — an absolute must to contain the virus — in such highly dense cities.
Over 20 per cent of the total number of cases in Mumbai (in mid-April) were from G-South ward — densely populated areas such as Elphinstone, Worli and Lower Parel. Overall, around 54 per cent cases were from wards which had a population density of around 35,000 people per square kilometers.
Poor low-income areas, with houses closely stacked next to each other, home to lakhs of people, with poor healthcare and medical facilities has also been a common factor for the surge in cases in both the cities. Bronx and Queens in New York are inhabited by the socially and economically deprived, and have reported 53 per cent of the total cases in the city. Mumbai’s Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums, is the new hotspot with a total of 1,353 cases and 56 deaths. Dharavi is one of the most densely populated areas of the world with 2,77,136 people living per sq km.
Another reason for a high number of cases in both the cities is the high number of tests conducted by their state. As of May 10, Maharashtra had carried out 2,25,524 tests, the majority of them in Mumbai. New York had conducted 14,13,396 tests by the 17th of May.
New York has gradually started to lift certain restrictions in May while Mumbai is under strict lockdown till the end of the month.
When will the crowds return to Times Square? Will we see a packed Juhu Beach this year? When will Rohit Sharma return to the Wankhede? Will we see Nadal at the Arthur Ashe Stadium this year?
Will the pandemic reshape the structure and alter the character of these great cities? Or will even Covid-19 not be able to break their spirit?
Time will tell.
New York, New York
I want to wake up in a city that never sleeps
Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Jeena Yahan,
Yeh Hai Bombay, Yeh Hai Bombay, Yeh Hai Bombay Meri Jaan