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Wednesday Jul 29 2020

More than half of Mumbai's slum dwellers have had COVID-19: study

A healthcare worker checks the temperature and pulse of a resident during a check-up camp for the coronavirus in Mumbai. Photo: Reuters 

A city-commissioned study raised doubts on India's official COVID-19 figures after it pointed out that half of the citys population living in slums has had the novel coronvirus.

India is already the third worst-hit country after the US and Brazil, with nearly 1.5 million cases though experts have previously said the lack of testing could mean the true tally is much higher.

Blood tests on 6,936 randomly selected people conducted by Mumbai's city authorities found that 57% of slum-dwellers and 16% of non-slum residents had virus antibodies.

Mumbai, where about 40% of the population lives in slums, has reported just over 110,000 infections and more than 6,000 deaths so far.

The western city of 20 million people is home to India's largest slum Dharavi, where an estimated one million people live.

But deaths in the sprawling slum have not exploded, with local officials saying their aggressive efforts to stem the spread of the virus has been effective.

The survey results suggested asymptomatic infections were "likely to be a high proportion of all infections" and also indicated the virus death rate was likely to be "very low", the study said.

The Mumbai survey came a week after an antibody study commissioned by the government suggested that almost a quarter of people in the capital New Delhi, home to 20 million people, have had the virus.