Indians are celebrating Holi, the festival of colors, despite many states restricting gatherings to contain a resurgence of coronaviruses across the country.
Holi marks the advent of spring and is widely celebrated throughout predominantly Hindu India.
Most years, millions of people throw colored powder at each other and spray themselves with water at outdoor celebrations. But for the second year in a row, people have been encouraged to stay at home to avoid turning the festivities into mass-market events amid the latest wave of the virus.
Confirmed infections in India topped 60,000 per day over the past week, up from around 10,000 in February. On Monday, the health ministry reported 68,020 new cases, the largest daily increase since October last year, bringing the national total to more than 12 million.
Daily deaths increased by 291 on Monday, bringing the total number of deaths from the virus to 161,843.
The latest wave is centered in the western state of Maharashtra, which reported 40,414 new cases of the coronavirus on Sunday, nearly two-thirds of the national total, many in the densely populated financial capital of Mumbai.
Authorities in Maharashtra, India’s richest state, have tightened travel restrictions and imposed nighttime curfews to prevent the spread of the virus. He is now considering a strict lockdown.
Cases are also increasing in the capital New Delhi and in the states of Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.
The outbreak coincides with multi-stage state elections marked by large rallies and tours, and the Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival, celebrated in the northern city of Haridwar, where tens of thousands of Hindu worshipers perform. daily a sacred dip in the Ganges.
Health experts fear that uncontrolled gatherings could lead to clusters, adding that the situation can be controlled if the vaccination is open to more people and COVID-19 protocols are strictly followed.
India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has vaccinated around 60 million people, of whom only 9 million have received the two doses of the vaccine to date.
However, over 60 million doses made in India have been exported overseas, prompting much criticism that domestic needs should be met first.
The government said last week that there would be no immediate increase in exports. He said the vaccines would be given to all people over 45 from April 1.