Ganges Hindu bath in India can create Omicron nightmare

An estimated one million Hindus are expected to gather on the banks of the Ganges River in India this weekend for a sacred bath, an official told Asia One. Health critics and virologists are worried that the sacred gathering will become a super-spread by increasing the Omicron contamination that is already plaguing the nation.

On Tuesday, India reported 168,063 new infections with Omicron Covid-19, an increase of 20 times in a month despite the fact that the tests were well below capacity.

The majority of infected people have recovered at home and hospitalizations were less than half of those during the last major wave of infections in April and May.

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As a result, many states have enforced night-time bans. In Delhi, a lockdown over the weekend shut down private offices, restaurants and bars in a bid to curb Omicron’s spread.

A large number of pilgrims have already arrived at the site of the annual Ganges ritual on an island in the eastern state of West Bengal, which reports the second highest number of cases in the country after the state of Maharashtra in the west.

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Bankim Chandra Hazra, the minister of West Bengal responsible for organizing the festival known as Gangasagar Mela, told Reuters that the crowd could reach 800,000 to one million. “We try to implement all Covid protocols,” he said.

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“Holy water is also sprinkled by drones to avoid overcrowding, but sadhus (Hindu saints) insist on diving regardless of our efforts.”

In northern India last year, a similar major religious festival spread the Delta variant that infected millions and killed tens of thousands.

At the confluence of the Ganges and the Bay of Bengal, pilgrims visit the village of Gangasagar on January 14, the major Hindu festival Makar Sankranti.

A team of doctors has appealed to the state Supreme Court to overturn the decision to allow the festival this year, worrying that the event could turn into a “super spread” of the virus.

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After the United States, India has reported the most cases of Covid-19 infection with 35.88 million cases. On Monday, 484,213 deaths were reported.

On Monday, India conducted 1.6 million Covid-19 tests, with a capacity of over two million. Not all close relatives of confirmed patients need to be screened.

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