This year, it was held in Haridwar on the outskirts of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand. Devotees participated in prayer and washed their sins in the sacred waters of the Ganges River. According to some myths related to festivals, on certain days, the river water becomes “amrita” or immortal nectar.
But this year, Covid-19 measures have delayed the festival and then reduced the scale. The traditional start date is called Makar Sankranti, which is in January, but people are not authorized to take a holy bath in the river until the government is officially launched in April.
Oommen Kurian, senior researcher and head of the health program at the Observer Research Foundation of NSW, said that although the authorities have shortened the start date from three and a half months to one month, many people still choose to ignore the official guidelines.Delhi
Since Makar Sankranti in January, thousands of people have flocked to Haridwar-gathering close by for a few hours a day, sharing public facilities, and eating together. The photos show people washing their faces, immersing their bodies in sacred water, and then participating in evening prayers on the banks of the river, lighting candles, and making religious offerings.
Festival official Harbeer Singh said that Thursday, the first ceremony and holy bath were held on both sides of the Ganges, and the saints performed prayer rituals. The religious flag was hoisted before arrival, marking the official start of the celebration. The city’s local sheriff and police officer prayed to the Ganges for Kumbh Mela to succeed.
Pradeep Jha, chairman of the Hindu organization Ganga Sabha, said: “This is a festival that people have been waiting for years.”
He added that Jia attended the morning Khumbu Mela ceremony.
The ministry said it expects there will be 1 million people on a “normal day” during the holiday season. But on “auspicious days”, attendees may swell to 5 million people, and there may be “a large group of people gathered together… take a bath.”
Experts worry that large-scale gatherings may cause trouble to the Covid-19 situation in India, which has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks.
From September 2020 to February of this year, the number of cases in India has dropped by nearly 90%, and many people indicate that the country has clearly succeeded in controlling infections. But in March, the number of cases increased rapidly, triggering a second wave of alarms.
India recorded 72,330 new virus cases and 459 new related deaths on Thursday. According to statistics from the Ministry of Health of India by CNN, this is the fastest increase in the number of cases in a single day since October last year and the largest increase in the number of deaths since December.
VK Paul, a member of the Indian government think tank Niti Aayog, said on Tuesday: “The situation is getting worse and it is a cause for serious concern.
Kurian said the surge in the number of cases is due to several possible factors. The emergence of new variants is increasing, and health authorities are still investigating genome sequencing. People go out more and take fewer precautions. The public may be experiencing Covid fatigue, or just let down their vigilance due to the success of the winter.
Kurian said: “In the past two months, the Kumbh Mela area has been very lucky. However, given the increase in the number of cases and the expected movement of people in the coming weeks, the cases may have a certain degree of increase. Surge, even if strictly enforced (security measures).”
According to the instructions of the state and federal governments, visitors must register online and provide a medical certificate to confirm their health. Participants must pay attention to maintaining social distancing, wear masks, and set up hand-washing stations in public places.
According to official guidelines, from April 1st, all visitors from states with a surge in infections (12 in total) must provide negative Covid-19 test results. Checkpoints at railway stations, airports and other large hubs will conduct random tests on people passing by. It is also possible to check the negative test results of participants at several entry points.
Kurian said: “The current (guidelines) are relatively strict, and any stricter regulations may not be implemented.” However, because so many people gather in a small space and share the same river water, the risk remains Very high. The photos of the Ganges show a crowded crowd, people crowded together, there is no room for social distancing. Dozens (or even hundreds) of holy people were immersed in the water together, without the protective masks in sight.
Ganga Sabha President Jha acknowledged that the pandemic is a “great disaster” that “we should all be vigilant”.
He said: “But our health is our own.” “All of us need to take adequate precautions to protect ourselves from Covid. Although we believe in religion, we are also pragmatic, so I appeal to everyone Keep a safe distance.”
Jaha added: “That said, this year is auspicious, and many people are also in a difficult time. Therefore, seeking the blessings of their mother Ganga becomes more meaningful for them this year.” “It’s really a testament to this. An incredible feeling.”
The Uttarakhand government said on Tuesday that it has urged vulnerable groups such as the elderly and people with comorbidities to travel only in emergencies or unavoidable situations. Health care workers and those working on the front lines during the Kumbh Mela will be vaccinated.
India began to implement vaccination in January, and the goal is to inject 600 million vaccines (300 million people, because the vaccine requires two doses) by August.
India is administering two vaccines: one is developed by the University of AstraZeneca at Oxford University and is called Covishield in India. And India’s first indigenously produced coronavirus vaccine Covaxin, which was jointly developed by Bharat Biotech and the Indian Medical Research Council run by the government.
So far, more than 61 million vaccines have been injected in the country, and about 8.9 million people have been vaccinated. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, this is still less than 1% of the country’s 1.3 billion people.
Kurian said there are still some vaccine hesitations in the country, which may hinder vaccination efforts and exacerbate the current surge.
Kurian said: “India needs to ensure that high-risk groups are vaccinated as soon as possible, and may carry out campaigns in high-burden areas.”
He added: “From the perspective of the country’s momentum, I think that in the near term, we will soon see the peak of cases in September 2020.” “The number of deaths per day reaching four digits again will be huge for the country. Tragedy needs to be avoided at all costs.”