Large crowds of Hindu worshippers gathered on the banks of India’s Ganges river on Friday (January 14) for a holy bath in spite of a 30-fold rise in coronavirus cases in the past one month.
In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, thousands of devotees, few wearing masks, thronged the river’s banks. A large number of devotees were also taking a dip in the sacred river where it flows through the eastern state of West Bengal, which is reporting the most number of cases in the country after Maharashtra state in the west.
India is again facing a surge in coronavirus cases, fuelled mostly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but hospitalisations are low, with most people recovering at home.
Doctors had appealed unsuccessfully to the West Bengal state high court to reverse a decision to allow the festival this year, worrying it will become a virus “super spreader” event. Last year, a big religious gathering in northern India contributed to a record rise in coronavirus cases.
On Friday, the health ministry reported 264,202 new cases of the coronavirus in the previous 24 hours, taking India’s total tally to 36.58 million.