01/15/2021, 13.16
INDIA
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Kumbh Mela and the COVID-19 epidemic

This year’s largest gathering in the world  started in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, raising fears that a huge increase in infections might follow. The UK variant of the coronavirus has been detected in the country. The vaccination campaign begins tomorrow with a Made-in-India vaccine.

New Delhi (AsiaNews) - One of the largest gatherings in the world, the Kumbh Mela, began yesterday, bringing together millions of Hindu devotees on the banks of the Ganges.

The faithful hope to attain “moksha”, purification and liberation from the cycle of birth and death, by praying and bathing in the divine waters.

The Kumbh Mela, which will last until April, is centred this year on the city of Haridwar, Uttarakhand.

Given the ongoing pandemic, authorities are concerned that masses of people crowding the river banks will cause a huge spike in COVID-19 infections.

In view of the situation, the government issued directives months ago concerning Hindu festivals. They include: mandatory testing, splitting the millions of pilgrims into smaller groups, social distancing, wearing mask, disinfecting venues, etc.

However, on the very first day of the Kumbh Mela, people can be seen in close proximity to each, without a mask.

Increasing the authorities’ fears, the UK variant of the coronavirus, deemed even more contagious, has been detected in Uttarakhand. Yesterday, 154 new cases were reported in the state.

So far, India, a country of 1.3 billion people, has reported more than 10.5 million COVID-19 cases with 151,918 deaths.

Tomorrow, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to launch the vaccination campaign with a speech to the nation.

Between 9 am and 5 pm, Indian hospitals, rural dispensaries, and private clinics will start to immunise people with a Made-in-India vaccine, with priority given to healthcare workers.

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