Life & Leisure

India’s Taj Mahal reopens after months of closure even as infections rise

Patna, India, Sep 21 (efe-epa).- India’s famous monument of love, the Taj Mahal, was reopened for visitors on Monday after more than six months of closure due to Covid-19 curbs even as the number of daily infections has been rising steeply.

The gates to the 17th-century architectural wonder, closed on Mar. 17, in the northern city of Agra, were thrown open as the government looks to revive the economy, devastated by the months-long stringent lockdown measures.

“Taj Mahal and Agra Fort will reopen for visitors from 21st September 2020 onward,” read a notification by the District Administration Agra on the official website of the Taj Mahal.

Visitors will have to follow strict Covid-19 guidelines and tickets will only be available online, according to the notification.

The visitors to the site will have their temperatures checked before entering the complex that houses the graves of 17th-century Mughal emperor Shah Jahan and his wife Mumtaz Mahal.

They will have to strictly adhere to social distancing inside the complex.

There is a cap of 5,000 on the maximum number of visitors allowed to enter the premises in a day. Visitors will be allowed in two slots of 2,500 each — pre-lunch and post-lunch.

Pictures and videos on social media showed a small number of people wearing face masks going through security checks and entering the wide-open spaces and well-manicured lawns around the white-marble mausoleum, which under normal circumstances would be crowded with tourists.

The reopening of the Taj Mahal and other heritage sites are a part of Unlock 4, or the phased easing of Covid-19 restrictions, to bring back momentum into the Indian economy, which contracted 23.9 percent during the first quarter of this financial year.

The government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is now faced with the deepest economic contraction in decades and is trying to resume all economic sectors to push the economy and generate employment.

Tourism, which contributed to a little over 9 percent to India’s gross domestic product in 2018, continues to be among the worst-hit even as the virus curbs have been eased.

The easing of pandemic restrictions comes even as India looks all set to overtake the United States as the worst-hit country in the world due to coronavirus infections.

The country remains the world’s second most affected by Covid-19, with the number of cases rising steeply.

The US has a total of over 6.8 million confirmed cases, as the country with the highest caseload of coronavirus infections.

India has crossed more than 5.4 million cases of the highly infectious virus, with 87,882 deaths. Some 1,130 deaths were recorded in the last 24 hours, according to the Health Ministry data on Monday.

However, India has so far witnessed a relatively low death toll partially explained by the young population, with just 5 percent of the people being above the age of 65 according to the 2011 census. EFE-EPA


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