Despite Covid-19, millions will flock to India’s Ganges for holy baths Coronavirus pandemic news

Nearly 1 million Hindu devotees are expected to gather on the riverbank for the annual pilgrimage that has the second-highest number of reported cases in the state.

Nearly 1 million Hindu devotees are expected to gather along the Ganges for holy baths this Friday and Saturday, despite the Rising COVID-19 Infections Across the country, an official told Reuters.

India reported 168,063 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday, a 20-fold increase in a month despite testing well below capacity.

Most infected people have recovered at home, and hospitalizations are less than half the rate of the last major wave of infections in April and May.

Many states have announced curfews, while the capital, New Delhi, has imposed a weekend lockdown, closing private offices as well as restaurants and bars to contain the fast-spreading outbreak Omicron variant.

But thousands of pilgrims have arrived at the site of the annual Ganges ceremony on an island in the eastern state of West Bengal, which is second only to the western state of Maharashtra in the number of reported cases.

Hindu pilgrims gather on the banks of the GangesHindu pilgrims gather for a dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal on the occasion of the Makar Sankranti festival in the eastern state of West Bengal [File: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters]

“The crowd could swell to between 800,000 and 1 million. We are working hard to implement all COVID protocols,” West Bengal minister Bankim Chandra Hazra, who is in charge of organizing the festival called Gangasagar Mela, told Reuters.

“We also arranged for drones to sprinkle holy water so it wouldn’t be crowded… but Sadhus [Hindu holy men] They all wanted to test the waters. We can’t stop them. “

One similar large religious festivals It helped spread the Delta variant in northern India last year, infecting millions and killing tens of thousands.

Every year on January 14, on the important Hindu day of Makar Sankranti, pilgrims head to the village of Gangasagar to take a dip at the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal.

Doctors have appealed to the state’s high court to overturn a decision to allow music festivals this year, fearing it would become a virus “superspreader” event.

India has reported a total of 35.88 million COVID-19 infections, the world’s largest number after the United States. The death toll rose by 277 to 484,213 on Monday.

India conducted 1.6 million COVID-19 tests on Monday, with capacity exceeding 2 million. It no longer requires testing all close contacts of confirmed patients.