The Uttarakhand government imposed a curfew in Haridwar district on Tuesday, ANI reported. The curfew will be in effect in the urban areas of Haridwar, Roorkee, Laksar and Bhagwanpur from Wednesday till 5 am on May 3, the district magistrate said.
The new restrictions came hours after the last “shahi snaan” or royal bath of the Kumbh Mela on Tuesday. Though there were a smaller number of devotees at the final holy dip at the Kumbh Mela on Tuesday, they still flouted Covid norms. Most of them were unmasked and there was crowding and little physical distancing.
Several lakhs of pilgrims gathered in the city of Haridwar for a ritual bath in the Ganges River in the past month despite the massive surge in coronavirus cases. The Kumbh Mela, which began on April 1 and goes on till April 30, was visited by lakhs of pilgrims each day.
Till 7 am on Tuesday, Uttarakhand had 43,032 active cases and 2,309 deaths. These are the latest figures available. On Tuesday morning, the state government said that it had recorded 5,703 new infections in the preceding 24 hours. Less than two months ago, the state had confirmed only 58 cases in a 24-hour period, according to NDTV. On March 3, there were only 451 active cases.
The district of Dehradun has the most number of active cases at 14,842, closely followed by Haridwar with 11,892 cases.
The number of devotees visiting the Mela climbed manifold on three days of “shahi snaan” – April 12, April 14, and April 27. Basic Covid-19 protocols such as testing, wearing masks, thermal screening, and checking negative test reports were ignored.
District Magistrate C Ravi Shankar said in his order on Tuesday that the curfew would also be imposed in rural areas of Gordhanpur, Sultanpur, Khanpur, Raisi, Bhikampur, Bhadrabad, Rawali Mahdood Bazaar, Roshanbad, Narsan and Roorkee Rural, according to The Times of India.
Ration shops, stores selling dairy and meat would be open till 4 pm, while petrol pumps and medical stores would operate normally. Gatherings have been restricted to 20 for funerals and 50 for weddings. All government offices, except those under essential work, would remain closed.
On April 17, after weeks of silence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that the Kumbh Mela should now be held as a “symbolic event” due to the coronavirus situation. His remarks came after the head seer of the Maha Nirvani Akhada from Madhya Pradesh, Kapil Dev, died due to Covid-19.
The prime minister said that he had spoken about the matter to Avadeshanand Giri of Juna Akhada, one of the 13 religious clans taking part in the festival.
However, social media users and commentators pointed out that the prime minister’s intervention was too late and that he had even endorsed the Kumbh Mela earlier. A final decision on concluding the event was only expected to taken by the Akhada Parishad, the top body of the akhadas. In the end, the event was not concluded and continued, albeit with fewer numbers.
The violation of Covid-19 protocols attracted attention from across the world. However, state authorities, including Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, tried to downplay the risks. After Modi’s statement, Uttarakhand state government officials ruled out the possibility of curtailing the Kumbh Mela, even as coronavirus cases continued to rise in Haridwar.
India’s healthcare infrastructure is reeling under the second wave of the Covid-19 pandemic as thousands of new coronavirus cases emerge every day. This has led to an acute shortage of oxygen, beds and timely medical care across several states.
Social media is awash with desperate calls for ambulances, ICU beds and medicines. Even hospitals are taking to Twitter or going to court to plead with the government to replenish their oxygen supplies and warning that they will need to stop admissions of new patients.
On Wednesday, India registered a record 3,60,960 new coronavirus cases in a day, taking the total number of infections since the pandemic broke out in January 2020 to 1,79,97,267. This is the highest ever single-day rise in cases reported by any country so far, and the seventh consecutive day when the country has recorded more than 3 lakh cases. For the first time, 3,292 deaths were recorded.