India reported a record 200,739 Covid-19 cases over the last 24 hours, according to the country’s Ministry of Health earlier today.
Deaths climbed to 1,038, taking the total to 173,123, while total infections have hit just over 14.1m cases, according to the latest official data.
The coronavirus is spreading much faster in India than anywhere else in the world. On Monday, the government revealed nearly 162,000 new infections had been recorded, followed by another 150,000 on Tuesday.
Despite the surge in new cases, mass gatherings and large events are still permitted and taking place all across the country.
Millions celebrate in Haridwar
This week, around three million Hindus have started to come together in the north Indian city of Haridwar, celebrating an auspicious bathing day in the Ganges river.
There are no restrictions at the week-long event, which started on Monday and takes place every 12 years, and officials acknowledged to local media it was impossible for attendees to maintain social distancing.
A senior police official told ANI news agency that it was very difficult to ensure social distancing on the river banks.
“Due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans [fines],” a police officer told ANI news agency. In fact, he warned that a “stampede-like situation” could arise if the police tried to intervene.
As a result, hundreds of attendees tested positive on Tuesday and yesterday. Officials said around one million people were bathing together yesterday afternoon, while another million are expected to repeat the ritual in the Ganges today.
Local police confirmed that nine religious leaders also tested positive yesterday, including Narendra Giri, the president of 14 Hindu groups. He has been admitted to a local hospital in Haridwar.
In addition, a former chief minister of the state of Uttar Pradesh, who attended the gathering earlier in the week, has repotedly tested positive, as well as the statre’s current chief minister.
Akhilesh Yadav, former chief minister of neighbouring Uttar Pradesh state, has also tested positive. He visited Haridwar on Sunday and met some top saints, including Mr Giri.
Yogi Adityanath, the current chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, has also tested positive although he did not visit the festival.
Covid across India
Mumbai, the beating heart of India’s economy, is currently the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak and the health minister of the local state, Maharashtra, warned yesterday new restrictions and a possible state-wide lockdown may be coming.
However, so far the populist government of prime minister Narendra Modi has failed to act and has given no indication it plans to take any new measures that may curb new infections.