Millions of Hindus have gathered to immerse themselves in the Ganges, and a second deadly Covid-19 wave continues to hit India.
Believers are celebrating an auspicious bathing day at the Kumbh Mela Religious Festival on Monday in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, Himalayas.
Authorities say they are having a hard time imposing safety standards due to the large number of people gathering.
Hindus believe that rivers are sacred and that bathing in them cleanses their sins and brings salvation.
Kumbh Mela is held every 12 years and the venue is chosen from four cities, including Prayagraj, Haridwar, Nashik and Ujain.
Haridwar’s turn to host the rally took place as the number of coronavirus infections surged, with India consistently reporting more than 100,000 cases daily in the past few weeks.
On Monday, India recorded more than 168,000 new cases, surpassing Brazil to become the country with the second highest number of cases in the world.
With a total of over 13.5 million cases, India is currently lagging behind the United States, which reports more than 31 million cases. With 13.4 million cases, Brazil is currently in third place.
Health experts have appealed for the cancellation of the Kumbh Mela festival, but said the government will comply with safety regulations.
A high-ranking police official told ANI’s news agency that it was very difficult to secure social distance on the banks of the river.
“We continue to urge Covid to follow proper actions, but the large crowd makes it virtually impossible to issue Sharan. [fines]”Sanjay Gunjyal, a police inspector general, said.
He said police could create a “stampede-like situation” when trying to force social distances on the banks of the river.
Authorities said more than 2.1 million followers were expected to bathe in the river by noon, with more followers expected to follow. Monday-Somvati Amavasya-is the largest bathing day of the two-month festival.
The government previously said that only those with a negative report of Covid would be allowed to attend the festival and strict measures such as social distance would be taken.
However, many, including top-notch saints, are already positive.
This helped the infection spread faster among believers on Monday’s bathing day, causing fear that some of them might regain the virus in their cities and villages in other parts of the country. ..
The second wave is causing havoc across India. Reports of hospital bed and life-saving drug shortages are beginning to arrive from different parts of the country.
Maharashtra is particularly affected, accounting for almost 30-40% of daily cases on average. Although curfew and limited blockades have been taken, the green light given to the Kumbh Mela Festival is confusing to experts.
Some of them say that the worst has not yet come unless strict and urgent measures are taken, including increased vaccination.
India has given more than 100 million doses so far, but experts say the pace needs to be increased to stop the spread of the virus.