Hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshipers have continued to observe the Makar Sankranti festival, as India experiences a spike in new infections.
Every year on January 14, Hindu pilgrims gather on the banks of the Ganges to bathe in its icy waters. The waters of the sacred river are believed to purify followers from sin.
Makar Sankranti events continue
Authorities fear the rallies could turn into so-called “super-spreader” events. Despite these concerns, events continued.
A local official told AFP news agency that people had started gathering since sunrise.
“At dawn, there was a sea of people,” Bankim Hazra told AFP. “Holy water from the Ganges was sprayed by drones on pilgrims…to avoid crowding.”
Authorities in Prayagraj town in northeast Uttar Pradesh said COVID-19 protocols have been implemented.
District official Pushpraj Singh told German news agency dpa that attendees to the events must produce vaccination certificates and negative test results.
“All pilgrims must show their vaccine certificates with negative PCR test reports. Thermal scanning is in progress. We are trying to enforce safety measures and will take action against violators,” Singh said.
Elsewhere, reports from local news channels showed many people wearing protective masks, although most were unable to socially distance themselves.
Thousands of people gathered on the bank of the Ganges, many of whom were unable to observe social distancing
COVID-19 cases soar
India over the past month has seen a massive increase in COVID-19 cases, driven by the omicron variant.
According to the country’s health ministry, in the last observed 24-hour period, there were more than 264,000 new infections.
There were 315 more deaths, bringing the country’s coronavirus death toll to 485,350.
During a coronavirus outbreak in April and May last year, more than 4,000 people died a day.
kb/sms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)