Several members of the “first family” of Bollywood have tested positive for Covid-19 as India nears 850,000 recorded cases.
Amitabh Bachchan, 77, perhaps the country’s most famous actor, and his son Abhishek are both being treated in hospital in Mumbai for the disease.
Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, also a Bollywood star, a former Miss World and Abhishek’s wife has also tested positive along with her young daughter. Both are remaining in quarantine at home.
Abhishek said on Twitter that he and his father were in stable condition. “Both of us having mild symptoms have been admitted to hospital . . . I request all to stay calm and not panic,” he wrote. He added that his actor mother Jaya tested negative for the virus.
India is now the third-worst hit country by the pandemic after the US and Brazil. Despite implementing one of the world’s strictest lockdowns in late March with only 500 reported cases, India has not flattened the curve and confirmed infections are now rising by more than 20,000 a day.
The onslaught of new cases has overwhelmed hospitals and public health infrastructure in Mumbai and the capital New Delhi, the worst affected cities, and led to shortages of hospital beds.
Doctors and public health experts fear the true scale of infections and deaths is being under-reported.
The continuing infections have stymied efforts to reopen and revive the country’s battered economy.
Cities including Bangalore and Pune have announced new lockdowns from next week. Bangalore, India’s third-largest city and a hub for technology and IT companies, had initially been praised for robust contact tracing but has seen a sharp recent increase in infections.
Mr Bachchan is one of the most prominent figures to have caught the virus to date in India. India’s film industry produces 2,000 releases and sells 2bn tickets a year, more than any other country.
The actor, whose sprawling home was sealed by health officials over the weekend, wrote on Twitter that “all that have been in proximity to me in the last 10 days are requested to please get themselves tested.”
Mr Bachchan has for decades been one of the industry’s most recognisable stars, from early hits in the 1970s to more recent Hollywood crossovers like The Great Gatsby, and even served as a member of parliament in the 1980s. A film starring Mr Bachchan, Gulabo Sitabo, was released directly online last month as cinema halls remain closed across the country.
He is also an ubiquitous presence in television commercials and billboards, having served as the face of international brands from Cadbury to Pepsi, and even appeared in a recent government campaign to raise awareness about coronavirus.
Ms Rai too ranks among the country’s most popular actors, and is an ambassador for L’Oréal.
Before the infections in the Bachchan family, Bollywood had sought to reopen. Officials have in recent weeks said that filming would be allowed to restart subject to restrictions like social distancing on set.