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Despite many Indian states restricting gatherings to try to contain a coronavirus resurgence across the country, people have still gathered to throw coloured powder and spray water in traditional Holi celebrations, reports Sheikh Saaliq for Associated Press.

The festival marks the advent of spring and is widely celebrated throughout Hindu-majority India. Most years, millions of people throw coloured powder at each other in outdoor celebrations. But for the second consecutive year, people were encouraged to stay at home to avoid turning the festivities into “superspreader” events amid the latest virus surge. Not everyone listened.

A woman reacts as coloured powder is thrown towards her during Holi celebrations in Chennai, India. Photograph: P Ravikumar/Reuters

India’s confirmed infections have exceeded 60,000 daily over the past week from a low of about 10,000 in February. On Monday, the health ministry reported 68,020 new cases, the sharpest daily rise since October last year. It took the nationwide tally to more than 12 million. Daily deaths rose by 291 and the virus has so far killed 161,843 people in the country.

The latest surge is centered in the western state of Maharashtra where authorities have tightened travel restrictions and imposed night curfews. It is considering a strict lockdown. Cases are also rising in the capital, New Delhi, and states of Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

Not everywhere had Holi celebrations, though, with the ANI agency noting empty streets in Delhi.


Streets in Delhi wear deserted look as #Holi celebrations have been banned at public places, in view of rising #COVID19 cases; visuals from Barakhamba Road

March 29, 2021

The surge of cases in India coincides with multi-stage state elections marked by large gatherings and roadshows, and the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, celebrated in northern Haridwar city, where tens of thousands of Hindu devotees daily take a holy dip into the Ganges river.

Health experts worry that unchecked gatherings can lead to clusters, adding the situation can be controlled if vaccination is opened up for more people and Covid-19 protocols are strictly followed.

India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, has vaccinated about 60 million people, of which 9 million have received both doses of vaccine so far.


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