India fears religious festival will revive epidemic

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India is concerned that the religious Kumbh Mela festival in Haridwar, one of the largest in the world which attracts millions of Hindu pilgrims, could reignite the coronavirus epidemic in the country, the health ministry said on Sunday.

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Some 40 pilgrims and locals test positive every day as part of the festival, according to the health ministry. “This rate has the potential to quickly trigger an increase in cases given the attendance of the festival,” said the ministry.

The festival in Uttarakhand, northern India, which was supposed to last three months, will last only 30 days this year due to the risks involved, but pilgrims mass without wearing masks or respecting the rules. social distancing.

This festival has already attracted some three million pilgrims in a single day since its opening.

Some 50,000 rapid antigenic tests and 5,000 PCR tests are performed there every day. However, the ministry recognizes that many more PCR tests would be necessary.

Haridwar is one of the seven sacred cities of Hinduism and an important place of pilgrimage, because according to tradition, the devotee who bathes in the Ganges in Haridwar sees his sins erased.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday called on regional leaders to increase testing and local restrictions in the face of an emerging second wave of COVID-19 to prevent an increase in cases nationwide.

India has recorded nearly 11.6 million cases of COVID-19, the second most contaminated country in the world, deploring some 160,000 deaths.

A total of 43,846 new cases have been recorded in the past 24 hours across the country, the highest figure since the start of the year, up sharply from the 9,000 daily cases in early February. However, this is half of the peak of almost 100,000 new daily cases reached in September.

Contamination is nevertheless on the rise in several regions, thanks to a certain relaxation, in particular in the state of Maharashtra (west) and its capital Bombay, where restrictions have again been imposed.