Mumbai, India’s financial hub, has begun random testing for the coronavirus in malls, railway stations and other crowded places as officials attempt to tamp down on a worrying surge in cases.
Rapid antigen tests will be taken without individuals’ consent, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said in a statement on Monday. Anyone who resists will be in violation of India’s colonial-era epidemic act, which gives the government the power to fine or imprison people who violate rules to contain an outbreak.
“We are trying to implement the existing protocol to the strictest possible level: use of face mask, regulating the number of people in one event, use of hand sanitizer, and now tests,” Suresh Kakani, a senior municipal official in Mumbai, told The New York Times.
Active Covid-19 cases in Mumbai have risen by more than 140 percent since March 1. With variants circulating and commercial activity almost back to prepandemic levels, the number of infections has also shot up in the surrounding state of Maharashtra. An entire district was forced back into lockdown last week.
Mr. Kakani said officials are determined to avert another lockdown in Mumbai, the city of 20 million that is home to Bollywood, India’s film industry, as well as the country’s largest stock exchange.
Another lockdown would be economically disastrous for India, which is just starting to recover from a lockdown last year that triggered a humanitarian crisis, as millions of migrant workers fled cities for their home villages, and a recession.