About three million people expected to attend religious event in India amid Omicron Wave
Massive crowds of pilgrims flooded the Ganges delta, desperate to bathe in its waters. Drones were deployed to spray them with water and reduce clutter.
Up to three million Hindu worshipers could gather on Sagar Island in northern India to bathe in the waters of the Ganges for religious reasons, according to official estimates reported by AFP on Friday. There was already”a sea of peoplepresent as devotees gathered to mark the Makar Sankranti (or Magh Mela) festival, a local official in the Indian state of West Bengal told the news agency, adding that most pilgrims did not wear pilgrims. masks.
People from many regions visit the event, which lasts several days. Defying the rules of the pandemic, they travel in crowded buses, boats and trains to the island and then return home.
Drones are deployed at the site to spray water on the pilgrims and reduce crowds at the riverside, but this does not prevent them from plunging into the Ganges. “They believe that God will save them and bathing at the confluence will wash away all their sins, and even the virus if they are infected“, told AFP a police official.
According to organizers, only people with vaccination certificates and negative PCR test results are allowed to attend, and thermal screening has been implemented. However, some are concerned that no proper security checks can be applied, as this could lead to stampede-like situations. “Despite the provisions, many worshipers take the holy bath and flout the 50-person limit at a time, but we can’t stop them from doing so.“, a senior official told local media.
Nearly 80 police and cleaners deployed to the festival have tested positive for the coronavirus, AP reported on Friday. “this is going to be a great spreader“said Utkarsh Mishra, a lawyer who asked a court to cancel the festival.
While public gatherings are banned in some parts of the country, where infections with the highly transmissible variant of Omicron are on the rise, the local government in West Bengal has permitted the festival this year. The Calcutta High Court has asked the administration to insist that worshipers opt for a so-called ‘line bath’ this time around, Indian media reported. Some asked to receive swim kits online by post, but the majority wanted to attend in person.
A similar Hindu gathering last year is thought to have sent infections with the devastating delta variant across the country. Nearly 265,000 new cases of coronavirus were recorded on Thursday, with some estimates suggesting the number could hit 800,000 in just weeks.
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