India records more than 161,000 new COVID-19 cases as people gather for ritual bath

India records more than 161,000 new COVID-19 cases as people gather for ritual bath

FILE PHOTO: Kumbh Mela amid COVID-19 pandemic, in Haridwar
Devotees are seen on the banks of the Ganges river during Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival in Haridwar, India, Apr 12, 2021. (Photo: Reuters/Anushree Fadnavis)

NEW DELHI: India reported 161,736 new COVID-19 infections on Tuesday (Apr 13), as hundreds of thousands gathered for a ritual bath in the Ganges river.

The new infections bring the country's case tally to 13.69 million, health ministry data showed. Deaths rose by 879 to 171,058. Numbers typically fall on Tuesdays because of delayed results from tests done on weekends.

READ: Businesses in India's richest state choke under new COVID-19 curbs

Over the past week, India averaged more than 130,000 cases per day, pushing its toll past Brazil's and making it second only to the United States', though both countries have much smaller populations.

Nearly all states are showing an uptick in infections and the country now faces the mammoth challenge of vaccinating millions of people, while also contact-tracing the tens of thousands getting infected every day and keeping the health system from collapsing.

A full opening of India's economy after last year's crippling lockdown, mass religious festivals and political rallies in states holding elections have worsened a second wave of infections, experts say.

Nearly a million devotees thronged the banks of the Ganges in the northern city of Haridwar on Monday to join in the months-long Kumbh Mela or pitcher festival, risking a surge in infections.

India Kumbh Mela

READ: India's Maharashtra state battles huge COVID-19 vaccine shortages

"The crowd here is surging ... the police are continuously appealing to people to maintain social distancing," police official Sanjay Gunjyal told Reuters at the site.

Elections are also due in four big states this month, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi set to travel to the eastern state of West Bengal to address rallies that will draw thousands.

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Source: Agencies/zl

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