In the midst of omicron outbreak, thousands of devotees in India congregate for religious bath

India registered this Friday 264 thousand cases of coronavirus, in a third wave which has led to a rapid rise in infections and record numbers in New Delhi, while a religious event expected to involve thousands of Hindu devotees causes concern among experts.

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The Asian country exceeded the barrier of 250,000 daily cases for the first time in more than seven months, reported the Indian Ministry of Health, raising the infections registered since the start of the pandemic to some 36.4 million.

The positivity rate stood at 14.78 percent today, up from 1.1 percent just two weeks ago, marking the rapid rise in cases.

The Asian country has detected 5,753 cases of the omicron variant since the beginning of December, an official number that according to experts does not represent reality.

Among the rise in cases, the permission of the authorities to celebrate the Makar Sankranti, a religious bath in the Ganges River that Hindu devotees consider auspicious in a festival that marks the end of winter and the arrival of longer days.

Among the faithful are those who braved the low temperatures of January with a sacred bath on the island of Ganga Sagar, at the mouth of the Ganges in eastern India, joining hundreds of thousands across the country to celebrate the holiday.

Last year, a Hindu religious event in the northern state of Uttarakhand was blamed for contributing to the rapid rise in cases at the start of the second wave of the coronavirus.

omicron variant, coronavirus, India, festival, Ganges, religion

Religious festivals in India (EFE/EPA/PIYAL ADHIKARY)

Does history repeat itself?

India became the global epicenter of the pandemic in April and May 2021, during a devastating second wave that brought this nation of 1.35 billion people to a peak of more than 400,000 infections and more than 4,500 deaths daily, saturating the country’s health infrastructure and causing a shortage of oxygen and hospital beds.

In some cities like New Delhi, infection numbers have already surpassed records set during the second wave. The Indian capital registered 28,867 cases of COVID-19 yesterday, compared to the maximum of about 25,000 that it reached during last May.

However, health authorities have pointed out that the increase in cases driven by omicron requires fewer hospitalizations than the delta variant, predominant during the second wave in the country. Thus, the Delhi Minister of Health, Satyendar Jain, stated yesterday that hospital occupancy in the capital is still at 15 percent.

Organizations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFCR) have pointed out, however, that the rise in cases due to the contagious variant could cause a collapse of health systems in South Asian countries. like the one that India and Nepal suffered last year.

With information from EFE.

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