Nearly one million Hindu worshipers are expected to gather on the banks of the river for annual pilgrimages in the state, which reports the second largest number of cases.
Nearly one million Hindu worshipers are expected to gather this Friday and Saturday on the banks of the Ganges River for a holy bath despite increasing COVID-19 infections across the country, an official told Reuters news agency.
India on Tuesday reported 168,063 new COVID-19 infections, a 20-fold increase in a month despite testing being far below capacity.
Most infected people recovered at home and the level of hospitalizations was less than half of those seen during the last major spate of infections in April and May.
Many states have announced curfew rules, while the capital New Delhi has also imposed a weekend closure, closing private offices as well as restaurants and pubs in an effort to curb the rapid spread. Omicron variant.
But tens of thousands of pilgrims have already reached the site of the annual Ganges ritual on an island in the eastern state of West Bengal, which reports the most cases in the country after the state of Maharashtra in the west.
“The crowd can swell to anywhere between 800,000 to one million. We are trying to implement all COVID protocols, “Bankim Chandra Hazra, a West Bengal minister in charge of organizing the festival known as the Gangasagar Mela, told Reuters.
“We also arranged for the holy water to be sprinkled from drones so that there was no congestion… except for the sadhus [Hindu holy men] tends to take the dip. We can not stop them. “
A similar major religious festival in northern India last year helped spread the Delta variant that infected millions of people and killed tens of thousands.
Every year on January 14, on the important Hindu day of Makar Sankranti, pilgrims visit Gangasagar village for a dive at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal.
Doctors have appealed to the state Supreme Court to overturn a decision to close the festival this year, worrying it will become a virus “super-distributor” event.
India reported a total of 35.88 million COVID-19 infections, the world’s largest score after the United States. Deaths rose Monday from 277 to 484,213.
India conducted 1.6 million COVID-19 tests on Monday, while the capacity is more than two million. This eliminated the need to test all close contacts of confirmed patients.