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Over 50% of Mumbai’s slum dwellers likely COVID-19 positive

More than half the people living in Mumbai’s sprawling slums are probably infected with coronavirus, which suggests the metropolis could be heading toward herd immunity, a government official and a health expert said on Wednesday (July 29), citing a recent survey.

About 57% of slum-dwellers have tested positive for antibodies for the coronavirus, from a random sample size of 7,000 people, according to the survey jointly conducted by Mumbai’s municipality, government think tank Niti Aayog and the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research.

Suresh Kakani, an official at Mumbai’s civic body, said the results of the survey showed that the city may be inching towards herd immunity.

A shopkeeper living in Dharavi, one of Asia’s largest slums located on the outskirts of Mumbai, said that people were no longer afraid of the virus, despite the rise in cases.

Maharashtra, where Mumbai is located, is the worst-affected Indian state, accounting for almost 400,000 out of India’s total of 1.5 million cases.

Around 65% of Mumbai’s 12 million people live in the cramped, airless slums, making for easy transmission of the disease. The survey found that only 16% of those living outside the slums had been exposed to the virus, the low proportion likely the result of social distancing and lockdowns.

India has the world’s third-highest caseload of the virus, behind the United States and Brazil, and health officials have been hoping to flatten the curve or reduce the incidence of infections in the big cities that are driving the growth.

(Production: Francis Mascarenhas, Sunil Kataria, Matthew Stock, Louisa Naks)

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