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Mumbai Races to Keep the Virus From Asia’s Most Crowded Slum

  • Need to curb infections in Dharavi after first recorded death
  • Social distancing impractical for a million people living here
Vegetable vendors wear protective masks while waiting for customers at a market in Mumbai, India, on April 5.
Vegetable vendors wear protective masks while waiting for customers at a market in Mumbai, India, on April 5.Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg
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When government official Kiran Dighavkar heard that a 56-year-old man who’d recently died in the Mumbai suburb of Dharavi had tested positive for Covid-19, he knew his next moves would determine the trajectory of the outbreak in India’s commercial capital.

The man, who died on April 1, lived with seven members of his family in a 400 square foot flat adjoining Asia’s most densely packed slum, where as many as 80 people share a public toilet. Not only could infection spread rampantly, but home quarantine for those testing positive would not be an option.