Starting Monday, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) had set up an ambitious target of conducting 47,800 tests daily, at multiple crowded locations of the city including shopping malls, railway stations, bus depots and market areas.
In an official letter released on March 20, the BMC had said that every municipal ward had to carry out at least 1,000 Rapid Antigen Tests (RAT) daily in multiple crowded locations. The letter further stressed the testing of at least 400 patrons in every mall, every day.
But the targeted goal remained largely unmet on Day 1. Although the exact number of tests done was not revealed, sources in the civic body said they were able to test only 25-30 per cent of the target on Monday.
“Monday was the first day of the drive and we are ramping up our manpower and facilities in a phased manner. We are hopeful that the numbers will pick up by the middle of the week or early next week,” said Additional Municipal Commissioner (Health) Suresh Kakani.
Kakani said that on Monday, health camps had been set up outside malls, bus stations, and major railway stations.
“We have roped in private laboratories, for conducting the daily tests and helping with manpower as well,” he added.
According to the BMC norms, visitors to malls will have to shell out Rs 250 for getting their tests done, whereas the cost of the tests that will be conducted at other public spaces will be borne by the BMC itself.
No uniform RAT target has been set for each ward, as such. It is being assigned on the basis of the number of malls, markets, and crowded places in each ward. All ward officers have been asked to keep track of the tests conducted daily and the report will be regularly monitored by Kakani.
Meanwhile, most visitors to malls on Monday said that they were not aware of the new policy of BMC. “This is completely absurd, it appears like we need to pay an entry fee of Rs 250 to enter the mall,” said a visitor.
“Instead of setting up testing camps, the BMC should deploy marshals inside the halls to check whether people are flouting norms,” said another visitor.
Mall authorities are anxious that the new drive of aggressive testing may be visited upon them in the form of lower footfall and further losses.
“Technically, instead of paying the money, most visitors would prefer to stay home and shop online, instead of visiting shops and shelling out money for tests,” said an official at a city mall.