Over a million Indians to gather beside Ganges, defying COVID-19 surge

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Prayagraj (UTTAR PRADSH), Jan 14 (Reuters) – Hundreds of thousands of Hindu worshippers are expected to gather on the banks of the Ganges river on Friday for a holy bathe despite a 30-fold rise in coronavirus cases in the past one month.

A large number of devotees are expected to take a holy dip in the sacred river that flows through the eastern state of West Bengal, which is reporting the most number of cases in the country after Maharashtra state in the west.

In the most populous state of Uttar Pradesh, thousands of devotees are likely to throng at banks of the Ganges river in the holy city of Prayagraj, as Hindus celebrate the Makarsankranti festival.

On Friday morning, many maskless devotees marched towards the river as vendors sold flowers and other wares on both sides of the road.

Last year, a big religious gathering in northern India contributed to a record rise coronavirus.

The country is again facing a surge in coronavirus cases, fuelled mostly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but hospitalisations are low, with most people recovering at home.

On Friday, the health ministry reported 264,202 new cases of the coronavirus in the last 24 hours, taking India’s total tally to 36.58 million.

Deaths from COVID-19 rose by 315, with total mortalities now at 485,350, the ministry said.

(Reporting by Ritesh Shukla in Prayagraj, writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; Editing by Mayank Bhardwaj, Christian Schmollinger and Michael Perry)

Photo – An Indian monk changes after taking a holy dip as devotees gather at Sagar Island during second day of annual fair amid Covid crisis, 130km south of Kolkata, Eastern India, 14 January 2022. EPA-EFE/PIYAL ADHIKARY

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