India’s famed monument of love, the Taj Mahal was thrown open for tourists on Monday, after the six-months hiatus keeping the site at bay from the tens of thousands of visitors it usually gets.
India’s most-visited places like this 17th-Century marble tomb were close off from the public in March after Indian imposed what was said to be the world’s biggest and strictest lockdowns, that immediately sealed 1.3 billion people indoors.
A Chinese national and a family from the neighboring city and Indian Capital Delhi were among the first visitors to flock the building complex of the Taj Mahal, which in peak season attracts over 20k visitors per day on an average.
Tickets are being sold online which is the only source as of now, and stringent rules for public health safety are imposed for visitors inside the premise like mandatory mask-wearing.
Only 5k tourist upper-limit will be maintained in the mausoleum premise – 2500 before 2 PM and the other half after, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (Agra circle), said in a statement to the media, who oversees Taj and other historic sites in the region.
Taj Mahal’s re-opening amid the heights of the pandemic in the country reflects the nation’s efforts to save the crippling economy that is facing one of the biggest recessions in decades and tourism being one of the nations biggest GDP contributors.
Cities after cities in India depend on tourism for functioning, and with the strict lockdown in place, the outcome from the industry became almost zero which also heavily impacted the hospitality sector.
In 2018 alone, the Indian tourism industry contributed $240 billion, or 9.2% of India’s gross domestic product, World Travel and Tourism Council data show, which as of this year has been seriously crippled.
Alongside Taj, Agra Fort was also re-opened in the same time.
“It’s incredible and historical at the same time. This is the first time ever that Taj was shut for six months,” Nishant Vasisht told news agency ANI.
“We are here to witness the change. The new normal has to be expected and adopted for our good. I have come with my family, stood in the queue, got digital tickets, and all set to see Taj.”
Meanwhile, COVID-19 is at an all-time high in the nation, with a record-breaking daily number of cases recorded since the past month.
In the past 24-hours, 86,961 new cases took India’s national-total to more than 5.4 million. 1130 deaths were reported in the past 24 hours, taking the total death toll from the virus to 86,961.
India’s federal government says, 70% of the deaths were a result of co-morbidities apart from the virus-related complications.
India’s COVID-19 scenarios, though scaringly difficult, is still behind other nations, where the caseload is steadily increasing in population much much lesser than that of India’s.