India’s new coronavirus infections hit a record as crowds of pilgrims gathered for a religious festival
New Delhi — India’s new coronavirus infections hit a record on Wednesday, as crowds of pilgrims gathered for a religious festival despite oxygen shortages and strict curbs in other areas.
India reported 184,372 cases in the last 24 hours, according to health ministry data, taking the total number of Covid-19 infections to 13.9 million. Deaths rose by 1,027, to a toll of 172,085.
Despite the rising number of cases, with hospitals struggling to cope with oxygen shortages, the Indian government has allowed the Hindu Kumbh Mela festival – where crowds gather to take a holy dip in the Ganges river – to proceed.
Hundreds of thousands of Hindus gathered to bathe in the Ganges on Wednesday, the third key day of the weeks-long festival, in the Himalayan city Haridwar.
Sanjay Gunjyal, the inspector general of police at the festival, said around 650,000 people had bathed on Wednesday morning.
“People are being fined for not following social distancing in non-crowded ghats (bathing areas), but it is very hard to fine people in the main ghats, which are very crowded,” he said.
There was little evidence of social distancing or mask-wearing, according to witnesses.
In response to concerns raised earlier this week that the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, could turn into a “superspreader” event, the state’s chief minister, Tirath Singh Rawat, said “the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus”.
More than a thousand cases have been reported in Haridwar district in the last two days, according to government data.
From reporting less than 10,000 cases per day earlier this year, India has been the world’s worst-hit country since April 2, with health experts blaming a widespread failure to heed curbs on movement and social interaction. ( From : Agencies and AFP )