India celebrates festival of lights amid fears of 3rd Covid-19 wave

New Delhi, Nov 4 (EFE).- India celebrated Thursday its festival of lights, or Diwali, marked by decorating homes with lights and family gatherings, while fear looms of a possible third wave of the coronavirus in the country.

This important Hindu celebration also marks the beginning of a new calendar year for many communities in the South Asian country.

As a part of the festivities, it is customary to visit family and friends for dinner and to exchange gifts and sweets, something that could cause a spike in cases, even though India is currently witnessing one of its lowest rate of infections since the start of the pandemic.

Diwali marks the return of Lord Ram, as per Hindu mythology, to his kingdom after defeating the demon king Ravana in Sri Lanka, which also marked the end of his 14 years of exile.

People light up their homes and public spaces to celebrate his return, and also to welcome Laxmi, the goddess of wealth, who is believed to visit people’s houses on this day.

“People host lots of Diwali parties and give each other gifts, it is the most festive time of the year for Indians, and we all come together despite religious differences in this diverse country,” Aneesha, a young woman from New Delhi, told EFE.

Markets and the streets of the Indian capital were filled with people on the days leading up to Diwali, and while the wearing of masks remains mandatory in the country, maintaining social distance has been a distant dream in the populated urban spaces.

Despite the risk of cases increasing this festive season, experts do not expect a repeat of the situation in May, when a virulent second wave caused more than 400,000 daily cases and over 4.500 deaths every day, leading to the collapse of the healthcare system and overcrowded crematoriums.

“People are more aware of Covid protocols, and now with vaccination, there is no evidence of (the possibility of) a fresh increase in Covid after Diwali,” Indian Medical Association President JA Jayalal told EFE.

Under the nationwide vaccination campaign, seen by the Indian authorities as the only means to eradicate the pandemic, three million doses were administered to the public the previous day, taking the total to over one billion jabs since January.

Of the 950 million adults in the country, 737 million have been given at least one shot of the vaccine, while 338 have been administered both doses.

In the last 24 hours, the country of over 1.3 billion people recorded 12,885 fresh cases of Covid-19 and 461 deaths. EFE


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