Nepal celebrates festival of colors after two-year Covid gap

Kathmandu, Mar 17 (EFE).- Thousands of people had gathered in Kathmandu on Thursday to celebrate Holi, the popular Hindu festival in which crowds throw colored powder and water on each other, a tradition which was disrupted for the last two years due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Nepali government declared a two-day holiday until Friday for the festival, which was being celebrated in the hilly parts of the country on Thursday, with the plains set to mark the occasion a day later.

Massive crowds of revelers thronged to the streets of the capital to mark the spring festival with colors.

“It’s been two years that we missed this color festival. Now the pandemic is over. There is no coronavirus!” 16-year-old Supriya Sharma, a resident of the nearby city of Bhaktapur, told EFE.

This is the first mass festival in the country since the authorities on Mar. 5 lifted all coronavirus restrictions, including the ban on large public gatherings.

However, the Kathmandu District Administration Office urged participants to follow coronavirus security protocols and use face masks.

“We have requested people to at least wear masks while celebrating festivals, as the pandemic is not over yet,” Ghanshyam Upadhyaya, the chief district officer of Lalitpur, one of the three districts in the Kathmandu valley, told EFE.

Nepal has witnessed a sustained decline in Covid cases in recent weeks, after a period of rapid rise due to the Omicron variant.

In the latest data, on Thursday authorities reported 73 fresh cases, a sharp contrast to the daily caseload of over 12,300 registered on Jan. 20.

The drop coincides with rising immunization, with 64 percent of Nepal’s population now being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 according to the health ministry.

Street carnivals for Holi have been organized at most tourist hotspots, even as authorities are focusing on preventing road accidents associated with the festival, most of them linked to drunk driving. Over 1,300 traffic police officers have been deployed in the Kathmandu valley to prevent this practice.

In a message, President Bidya Devi Bhandari wished happiness, peace and prosperity to all Nepali citzens on the auspicious occasion of Holi, also known as the Fagu Purnima (full moon day of the Hindu month of Falgun), which marks the end of winter and welcomes the spring. EFE


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