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In India's slums, social distancing is a luxury that can't be afforded

Poverty and religious gatherings elevate risk of infections

In Dharavi, people who do not have surgical masks make do with handkerchiefs or shirtsleeves tied around the mouth.   © Reuters

MUMBAI -- Although India enacted the world's biggest lockdown five weeks ago, the country's heavily concentrated slums remain potential breeding grounds for the novel coronavirus, putting millions who cannot afford to socially distance at risk.

Dharavi, the country's largest slum in the heart of Mumbai, sparked a media sensation with its first reported COVID-19 case on April 1. The patient, a 56-year-old man who died that day, initially admitted himself to the hospital on March 23, a day before Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared a nationwide lockdown.

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