India Is Concerned About A Large Religious Gathering As COVID-19 Cases Rise
Published On:March 22, 2021
On Sunday, India's health ministry warned that a large gathering of Hindu devotees for a Hindu festival could result in a spike in coronavirus cases, as the country recorded the most new infections in nearly four months. Up to 40 people were testing positive for COVID-19 every day, according to the ministry, near the site of the Mahakumbh, which started this month and peaks in April in the Himalayan holy town of Haridwar, near the Ganges.
The festival takes place only once every 12 years. Many Hindus believe that bathing in the river during this time absolves people of their sins and brings salvation from the cycle of life and death, so organisers expect more than 150 million visitors. The ministry told local officials in a letter to the state government of Uttarakhand, where Haridwar is located, that daily coronavirus testing of 55,000 people in Haridwar was insufficient given the large number of pilgrims expected, and that cases were already increasing.
Apart from following federal government laws, Uttarakhand's government claims that it has made mask-wearing mandatory for devotees, that it will distribute millions of masks for free, and that it will continue to sanitise public areas. In the last 24 hours, India has confirmed 43,846 new coronavirus cases, with Maharashtra accounting for roughly 60% of the infections. Deaths increased by 197, the most in more than two months, to 159,755, according to data from the Ministry of Health.