The Indian Medical Association on Monday cautioned the central and state governments that the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic was inevitable and imminent, reported NDTV. The doctors’ association said that “tourist bonanza, pilgrimage travel, religious fervour” can wait as the entire population should follow Covid protocols for at least three more months.

“Opening up these rituals and enabling people without vaccination to go scot-free in these mass gatherings are potential super spreaders for the Covid third wave,” the association said in a statement. “However, it is painful to many parts of the country both [the] government and public are complacent and engaged in mass gatherings without following Covid protocols.”

The doctors’ association also noted that India has just emerged out of the second wave of the pandemic and attributed a part of that achievement to the “dedicated altruistic services of modern medical fraternity”.

“But the past experience of last one and half years with the virus and based on the emerging evidences it is obvious with making the universal vaccination reach maximum possible population and strictly adopting to Covid appropriate behaviours we can face the third wave with confidence and mitigate its impact,” the association said.

Dr JA Jayalal, IMA president, also appealed to the central government to not allow residents to celebrate any kind of festivals amid the Covid-19 crisis, reported Mint. “Holding any festival is not advisable as it can be dangerous,” Jayalal said. “IMA requests the government to reconsider their decision regarding any kind of mass gatherings.”

The statement by the doctors’ came on the same day when the annual Rath Yatra began in Odisha’s Puri city. It was held without the participation of devotees and only fully-vaccinated temple officials or those who test negative for the coronavirus disease 48 hours before the festival were allowed to pull the chariots for the yatra.

In 2020 also, the Jagannath Rath Yatra was a muted affair due to the coronavirus pandemic. Usually, lakhs of devotees attend the festival.

The Uttar Pradesh government will reportedly allow the annual Kanwar Yatra in the state from July 25. The Kanwar Yatra is an annual pilgrimage by the devotees of Hindu deity Shiva. They collect water, usually from River Ganga, and offer it at Shiva temples in their respective states. These devotees, called Kanwariyas, come from far-off places, covering hundreds of kilometres on foot.

Medical experts and the Opposition had criticised the Centre’s decision to allow the Kumbh Mela, which was held during the surge in infections and fatalities due to the second wave of the pandemic in India between April to May.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims gathered in the city of Haridwar for a ritual bath in the Ganges River between April 1 and April 30. The violation of Covid-19 protocols at the gathering had attracted attention from across the world. However, state authorities, including the then chief minister, had tried to downplay the risks.

On July 10, the Centre had also reiterated that the second wave of the pandemic was not over yet, amid a surge in tourists to hill stations. Health experts have said violation of guidelines can lead to grave results.