700,000 Hindus gather for India religious festival despite Covid 'breeding ground' fears

17/01/2021 9:21:00 AM

But this year, India's Kumbh Mela -- the largest pilgrimage on Earth -- is drawing alarm, with some authorities warning of a potential mass COVID-19 outbreak if crowds gather and bathe together without masks.

Every year, tens of millions of Hindu pilgrims wade into the Ganges River, seeking salvation from the eternal cycle of life and death. Holy men lead prayers and offer blessings, and devotees wash their sins away in the sacred waters.

But this year, India's Kumbh Mela -- the largest pilgrimage on Earth -- is drawing alarm, with some authorities warning of a potential mass COVID-19 outbreak if crowds gather and bathe together without masks.

But this year, India's Kumbh Mela -- the largest pilgrimage on Earth -- is drawing alarm, with some authorities warning of a potential mass Covid-19 outbreak if crowds gather and bathe together without masks.The pilgrimage was supposed to begin on Thursday, known as Makar Sankranti, or the first day of the holy baths. But this year, officials decided to push the pilgrimage back a month.

Despite the postponement, hundreds of thousands of people from across the country congregated in the ancient city of Haridwar, in the northern Uttarakhand state, on Thursday to celebrate Makar Sankranti.Globally, India has the second highest number of cases and third highest death toll. As of Friday, it has reported more than 10.5 million cases and 151,000 related deaths, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.

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People can continue their pilgrimage just keep safe and aware that pandemic is not yet over.