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India, hit by surge in Covid cases, limits Holi festival celebrations

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Authorities on Monday limited the celebrations of one of the biggest Hindu festivals, Holi, the country having crossed the mark of 12 million cases of Covid-19, with records recorded in Mumbai.

All Color Festival celebrations, in which people spray themselves with color pigments, have been banned in several states including the capital Delhi, for fear that crowds will help spread the virus.

In Mumbai, the police were on patrol to make sure there were no gatherings.

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But the restrictions haven’t stopped some revelers from gathering across the country, beating drums and splashing color.

“We are aware that there is a pandemic, but we cannot ignore the will of people who want to celebrate the festival of colors,” television actor Debdut Ghosh, who is campaigning to be elected in the state of West Bengal.

In Lucknow in the predominantly Hindu state of Uttar Pradesh (north), people also took to the streets to celebrate Holi. “I wouldn’t have gone out if it weren’t for this party,” a man in his seventies, BK Tiwari, told AFP, wearing a mask splashed with color.

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The celebrations came as the country sees a new surge in coronavirus cases.

India recorded 68,020 new cases on Monday, a significant increase compared to less than 9,000 daily cases in early February. The country of 1.3 billion people has crossed the 12 million case mark.

“If the epidemic continues to progress at this rate – the number of cases quintupling almost in five weeks – it is very worrying,” virologist Shahid Jameel told AFP, adding that the failure to wear the mask and not respecting the barrier gestures contributed to this outbreak.

In Bombay, more than 6,900 new cases have been reported, a record in the city of 20 million people.

The state of Maharashtra which includes Bombay is considering imposing total containment, after having implemented a night curfew since Sunday.

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India recorded the third highest figure in the world behind the United States and Brazil, although the rate of infection reported to the population and the number of deaths are considerably lower.

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The country has so far avoided imposing severe restrictions to tackle the virus, after gradually lifting one of the toughest lockdowns globally last year, in a bid to revive its devastated economy.

The world’s largest vaccine maker has launched an ambitious campaign to vaccinate 300 million people by the end of July but is seriously behind schedule with just 60 million people vaccinated since mid-January.

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