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14 Apr, 2021 12:14

More than 1,000 test positive for Covid-19 in just 48 hours as Indian pilgrims descend on holy city in ‘super-spreader’ event

More than 1,000 test positive for Covid-19 in just 48 hours as Indian pilgrims descend on holy city in ‘super-spreader’ event

An Indian city has registered more than 1,000 positive Covid-19 cases in just 48 hours as hundreds of thousands of people descend on Haridwar and the Ganges river where the Kumbh Mela is being observed.

Indian officials have labeled the weeks-long Hindu festival a “super-spreader” event with hundreds of thousands of people flocking to the city on Wednesday alone, which is considered to be one of the most auspicious days of the entire festival.  

Authorities said that nearly 900,000 people had taken a dip in the river by Wednesday afternoon, in the hope of washing away their sins. More than three million took the plunge on Tuesday.  

So far this week in Haridwar, more than 1,000 infections were registered by local authorities, with 408 testing positive on Monday and 594 on Tuesday. 

Police say they have been fining people who failed to adhere to social distancing rules, but videos suggest the guidelines are not being widely enforced. 

Siddharth Chakrapani, a member of one of the Kumbh Mela organizing committees, told AFP that many pilgrims believe the Ganges will save them from the pandemic. “Our faith is the biggest thing for us. It is because of that strong belief that so many people have come here to take a dip in Ganga,” Siddharth Chakrapani, a member of one of the Kumbh Mela organizing committees, told AFP. 

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A local official said he had moved his Covid-19 sampling team out of the way as crowds of ash-covered pilgrims marched toward the holy river. “We have moved away our sampling team to avoid a stampede-like situation,” said Haridwar’s chief medical officer, S.K. Jha. “We do, of course, expect cases to rise when the priests and other crowds move away.” 

The recent surge in cases in India has seen the country become the second most afflicted nation, ahead of Brazil, in terms of recorded infections. On Wednesday, the nation’s daily death toll passed 1,000 for the first time since October, and some regions, including Maharashtra, have imposed tougher restrictions to slow the virus’s spread. 

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