India’s Kumbh Mela festival, often billed as the world’s largest gathering of people, is set to go ahead next month – raising concerns surrounding the potential spread of coronavirus.
The Hindu congregation traditionally takes place across a three-month period, but will this year be held over 30 days (between April 1-April 30) under rules imposed by the Uttarakhand government.
According to The Economic Times, however, the restricted celebrations will still draw 150 million visitors to the city of Haridwar next month. Attendees have been asked to practice social distancing and wear face coverings throughout the event.
Testing is also expected to increase by “about four times” during the festival, said chief medical officer, Haridwar, Dr SK Jha, “to ensure maximum random testing of pilgrims during the peak of Mahakumbh”.
“We have also tied up with seven private pathology companies to conduct the Covid-19 tests.”
As The Hindustan Times report, chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat has recently eased coronavirus restrictions. “The mega-event is held after every 12 years, hence devotees cannot be stopped from coming,” he reasoned.
Former chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat has criticised the move, claiming that the “lifting of restrictions would be highly risky for the state considering the rising number of cases in the country”.
Kumbh Mela will span various riverbank pilgrimage sites including Prayagraj, Haridwar, Ujjain and Nashik.
It comes as India yesterday (March 23) reported 47,262 daily coronavirus cases, the country’s highest daily total of 2021 so far.