10/23/2020, 12.20
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Diwali, Durga Puja and Dussehra festivals set to increase Covid infections fourfold

These festivals are attended by millions of people and last from a week to a month. In addition to religious ceremonies, there are fairs, markets, cultural events, theatres. New security protocols from October to December: the advice for everyone is to stay at home. It is forbidden to touch, kiss, caress the statues of the deities. Social distancing for processions, restaurants, purification baths. So far Covid-19 has caused 116,616 deaths, out of a population of 1.35 billion.

Kolkata (AsiaNews) - With the festivals of Diwali, Durga Puja and Dussehra, underway since yesterday and for the next few weeks, the Indian government fears it will see an increase in coronavirus infections. Some experts think infections could quadruple.

Diwali, the festival of lights, will begin on November 14; but yesterday the festival of Durga Puja [in honor of the goddess of vital energy, strength, war, protection] began and continues until October 26th. On October 25th the celebrations of Dussehra (or Dasara) begin, linked to the victories of the Durga and those of the god Rama. In some regions they last for 9 days; in others - such as in Varanasi - they last up to a month.

Millions of people participate in these festivals. They involve visits to temples, religious prayer gatherings, processions, mass immersions in rivers, visits to relatives and friends, lunches, banquets; the strictly religious element is accompanied by fairs, markets, theatrical performances. For all these occasions, the possibility of so-called “social distancing” is very scarce, indeed impossible.

In Kolkata, one of the most important centres for the Durga festival, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee warned about a possible growth of the pandemic from Covid-19 and asked the population to strictly follow security protocols. In anticipation of an increase in infections, the West Bengal government has increased the intensive care and special care wards from Covid by 600 beds, and reduced the price for the tests from 2250 rupees (about 25 euros) to 1500 (about 17 euros).

For its part, the central government has issued the security protocols to be applied during the holidays from October to December. All the newsstands (pandals) where the statues of the deities are housed are considered "red areas", where it is forbidden to approach. The population is invited to celebrate the gods at home; people over 65, the sick, pregnant women and children under 10 are strongly advised to stay at home and not go out.

It is forbidden to touch, kiss, caress statues of gods, idols, or sacred books in temples. Only recorded music is allowed; live choirs and orchestras are prohibited.

For all rallies, the government recommends social distancing and the use of masks. Cafes, canteens, cultural centres and temples are called to sanitize the surfaces, to have a healthcare staff always ready, to have ambulances to bring possible sick people to the hospital.

According to the Federation’s health authorities, at present there are 715,812 positive cases, with a decrease of 10% compared to last week. The numbers of the infected have been falling for a month.

The most serious situations - where the infection has grown - are in Chhattisgarh (19% in the last week); Kerala (16%); West Bengal (8%). The death rate is also falling. So far India has recorded 116,616 deaths from Covid-19.

(Nirmala Carvalho collaborated)

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