Thousands gather for dip in Ganges as coronavirus wave sweeps India

New Delhi, Apr 14 (EFE).- Hundreds of thousands of Hindus, most of them maskless, Wednesday gathered to take a dip in the Ganges river for an ongoing religious festival even as India fights a grim battle against a deadly second Covid-19 wave.

The country, which is already the second worst-hit nation in the world by the coronavirus, registered a record of nearly 185,000 new Covid-19 cases.

The daily death toll also passed 1,000 for the first time since October last year.

The daily number of infections is almost double that of the peak of the first outbreak in September last year.

The country of 1.35 billion people has an overall tally of 13.8 million cases, the second-highest after the United States.

The total number of deaths due to the virus in the world’s second-most populous country is now more than 172,000.

The rapid expansion of the second wave has multiplied the number of active cases that have exceeded the 1.3 million mark, straining the country’s already health care system in the past few weeks after months of sustained recovery.

Several state governments, including Maharashtra that is the epicenter of the new outbreak, have imposed new restrictions.

The western state, the richest in India is home to the financial capital of Mumbai, has been recording an average of 60,000 new cases each day for the past many days.

The region ordered a partial closure of the state for 15 days to curb the virus spread that has swept the country.

Experts blame massive religious events, political rallies in poll-bound states, and crowded public places for the new deadly outbreak.

Amid grave health crisis, the government in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand allowed Hindu devotees to gather for the two-month-long Kumbh Mela festival without safety norms.

The festival, which marks one of the world’s largest religious gatherings, has been ongoing for the past several weeks and has seen large crowds, particularly in the Hindu holy city of Haridwar.

Hindus gather at fixed spots on the Ganges banks to take a dip they believe washes away their sins.

The gathering was large on Wednesday that marked one of the four auspicious bathing days during the festival that is celebrated once in 12 years.

Some 600,000 people traveling from all over the country took the holy dip Wednesday, the police chief of the event, inspector general of police Sanjay Gunjyal told the local media.

On Monday, more than 3.1 million devotees bathed in the river.

According to the state health ministry, the region reported 1,925 cases in the last 24 hours, 594 of these from Haridwar. On Tuesday, more than 400 people in Haridwar had tested positive for the virus.

The figures came as chief minister of the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh, Yogi Adityanath, tweeted that he had also tested positive for the coronavirus.

His predecessor and opposition leader Akhilesh Yadav has also confirmed that he had also contracted the virus.

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