Mumbai will test people for COVID-19 randomly at crowded places without their consent, the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai said in an order today. The strict move to test people using the rapid antigen method comes amid Maharashtra, among other states, reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases.
"Rapid antigen testing (RAT) at crowded places like malls, railway stations (for inbound trains), bus depots, marketplaces, tourist places and government offices shall be done randomly. RAT will be carried out without the consent of citizens who are present at these crowded places," the municipal body said in the order.
"If the citizen refuses to test, it would amount to an offence under the Epidemic Act, 1897. Hence, action shall be initiated against the offender," the order said.
Rapid antigen test is seen as less reliable, but faster than the RT-PCR test for coronavirus. RAT detects the presence of viral proteins - antigens, the attributes of the virus - in a sample from the respiratory tract of a person. However, it is capable of giving more false negatives.
The train stations where mandatory and random RAT will be done are: Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus, Mumbai Central, Dadar Western and Central, Bandra Terminal, Andheri, Borivali and Lokmanya Tilak Terminus, Kurla.
The bus depots where RAT will be conducted are Mumbai Central, Parel, Borivali and Kurla.
A target of at least 400 rapid antigen tests has been set in malls, while the target is 1,000 at railway stations.
The cost of testing for coronavirus at malls will be paid by those who are getting tested, the municipal body said in the order. In other areas except malls, the cost of testing will be paid by the civic body MCGM.
All theatres, auditoriums and offices in Maharashtra will take in only 50 per cent of their capacity till March 31 amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, the state government said in an order yesterday.
Yesterday's order curtailing the capacity in theatres and offices came on a day when Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray warned people of another strict lockdown if they started going easy on safety rules like not wearing mask.
While the Uddhav Thackeray government is not giving any break-up data or details on hotspot locations, it is suspected that several strains of mutated virus are at work there, which accounts for such sharp rise in numbers.
Overall, there has been a big jump in cases of mutant strains since their presence was detected in India.