Let Kumbh Mela be symbolic: PM Modi amid virus blast

Kolkata, India: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday urged Indians to let the Kumbh Mela be a symbolic event now that the two bathing rituals have been taken place, to help inhibit the spread of the pandemic. 

India is currently in the difficult waters when it comes to the pandemic, with over two hundred thousand cases of the virus sprouting out every day for the last two days straight. And it has been over a week, the new cases in the nation have broken all the previous milestones in terms of numbers.

On Friday, India announced 2.1 lakh new coronavirus infections, the highest single-day increase since the pandemic started. The national total is now approaching 1.43 crore. Meanwhile, over 1,000 more patients died in the last 24 hours, taking the total number of deaths to 1,73,123.

As of 8 a.m. on Thursday, India had registered a total of 1,42,91,917 COVID-19 cases, according to the Union Health Ministry. The death toll has risen to 1,74,308 people.

Symbolic

Kumbh Mela -- one of the world's most ancient gatherings of its type -- involves hundreds of thousands of devotees from every corner of the nation who come to partake in the event where people pray to the sacred Ganges. 

This year, due to the unprecedented circumstances, the mela was scaled down, with several measures in effect owing to the pandemic, but that could not stop the event from being a superspreader event. 

In a series of tweets, the Indian PM said he spoke to the Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha President Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj about the well-being of the saints and seers who partake in the Kumbh mela in huge numbers. 


"Now that two shahi snans have taken place, I appeal to everyone to keep Kumbh Mela symbolic due to the coronavirus crisis," one of his tweets read.

Over 5000 devotees have so far tested positive for the novel coronavirus after they attended what is one of the world's biggest human gatherings - the Kumbh Mela, in India, according to recent official figures. 

Experts worry the real results could be worse. 

With the outbreak of infections from the gathering on the rise, the state government had ordered a 50 percent reduction in the number of devotees who can attend the fest now that the main event has ended.

Despite an apparent increase in the number of cases among devotees, the government did not order a strict restriction on visiting the festival, where millions take part in high-risk rituals in the event of a pandemic, such as dipping in the waters together.

Swami Avdeshanand wrote tagging the PM's tweet: 

"We honor the call of Hon'ble Prime Minister! Protecting life is a great virtue. My religious religion urges the public not to come for a bath in large numbers and observe the rules, given the circumstances of the Covid!"

Spread COVID-19 like 'prasad'

Mumbai Mayor, commenting on the Kumbh controversy said that the devotees returning from the event will spread the virus like 'prasad' (offering). 

“I don’t know who has gone and who is coming back from the Kumbh Mela. But just like the event of our Muslim brothers in Delhi last year and 27 people added to the cases, those who are returning will spread the disease like prasad in every state and the situation will become worse,” Kishori Pednekar, Mumbai's Mayor was heard saying in a video tweeted by news agency ANI.


 

Meanwhile, the Kumbh mela has raised concerns amongst experts about being a severe superspreader event. 

Thousands have already tested positive for the virus after attending the Kumbh mela. Despite the same, no efforts to curtail the event were in place.

"The Kumbh Mela used to begin in January, but looking at the COVID-19 situation, the state government decided to start it in April this time. The Centre's SOP said because of the situation, the duration would be reduced. I have no information of it being curtailed," an official had said about prospects of seizing the gathering. 

Thanks to the controversy, many people on social media have alleged negative media publicity of the Kumbh mela with pictures of huge crowds from previous years being shared. 

With the addition of 2,34,692 new cases today, India's coronavirus caseload crossed 1.45 crore, the largest single-day increase since the pandemic's inception.

Cover image via Twitter.

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