image captionCoronavirus infections have been rising steadily across India for several weeks

The Indian city of Mumbai is to rollout rapid coronavirus tests in crowded places as the country grapples with a rise in infections.

The city’s local government said people would be tested randomly in an order issued on Saturday.

A refusal to be tested would “amount to an offence” under an 1897 epidemic law, the order said.

The move came as India recorded 40,953 new cases on Saturday, the biggest daily jump for nearly four months.

India has recorded more than 11.5 million coronavirus infections and 159,000 deaths related to the disease.

Infections have been steadily climbing for weeks as the country scrambles to vaccinate its population and identify highly contagious variants of the disease.

In Mumbai, a coronavirus hotspot in the western state of Maharashtra, 2,982 people have contracted the disease in the past 24 hours.

The rapid tests will be mandatory in crowded places such as shopping centres and train stations from 22 March, city officials said.

The commissioner of the local authority told India Today that people should “be ready for the swab test” whenever they enter a busy area in Mumbai.

The local authority said it would use rapid antigen tests (RATs), a type of test that detects the presence of proteins unique to the coronavirus.

But research shows these tests are less reliable than other types and sometimes produce incorrect results.

India has recorded the third-highest number of infections, and the fourth-highest number of deaths, of any country in the world.

Infections started to dip at the start of 2021, but doctors have blamed a fresh wave on poor adherence to restrictions.

In recent weeks Maharashtra, which has long been a virus hotspot, has accounted for the majority of new infections.

Seven other states – including Kerala, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh – are also reporting a resurgence of Covid-19.

Some regions in India have brought back restrictions, including lockdowns and restaurant closures, while more are believed to be considering similar moves.

The vaccination drive began in January in India, a country of more than 1.3 billion people.

More than 40 million people have received at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine so far.

The rollout is currently targeting elderly people and those with underlying health conditions, but it is expected to expand further soon.

The government aims to use up to 500 million doses to cover 250 million “priority people” by the end of July.

Although the pace of vaccination has picked up, experts say unless the drive is scaled up the target could be missed.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, 70, received a dose on 1 March. After receiving the jab, he urged people to take the vaccine when their turn comes.

media captionHealth workers were the first in line to get Covid jabs