April 12th – Thousands of Indians gathered on Monday (12th) to bathe on a pilgrimage by the Ganges River, many of whom ignored social distancing measures. The move is raising concerns as confirmed cases of COVID-19 in India are soaring.
According to Associated Press and Reuters, nearly one million pilgrims gathered along the Ganges River for months-long “Great Kettle Festival” in the northern Indian city of Haridwar. According to the report, the “Great Kettle Festival” is regarded as an auspicious day in the Indian calendar, and the number of people on the pilgrimage on the scene has soared, which may cause a surge in infection. Police have been calling for social distancing, but few people pay attention to it, and few people who bathe in the water at the scene wear masks.
At present, at the time of the worst outbreak of COVID-19 in India, the average number of new confirmed cases on the 7th exceeded 130,000, making India the second most serious country in the world. The country’s hospitals are becoming overwhelmed, and experts worry that the worst has not yet arrived. A total of 7,323 cases of COVID-19 and 1,760 deaths were confirmed in Uttarakhand, where the pilgrimage city of Haridwa is located. The state’s chief minister worried last week that the festival could turn into a super-spreading event, but said pilgrims “will overcome fears of the virus.”
The Haridwa government said that the duration of the festival was reduced compared with previous years, but because of the large number of gatherings, it was difficult to implement social distancing measures. Persons entering the area must be tested for nucleic acid. A senior police officer said that the government constantly called for people to follow the epidemic prevention measures, “but because of the large crowd, it is almost impossible.”