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In pics | Here's how crowd gathered at the Kumbh Mela festival turned super-spreaders

Kumbh Mela: Masks were not worn by a large proportion of devotees and social distancing appeared impossible.

April 14, 2021 / 12:09 PM IST
A Naga Sadhu, or Hindu holy man wears a mask before the procession for taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival, amidst the spread of the coronavirus in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
COVID-19 protocol went for a toss as lakhs turned up for the shahi snan (royal bath) in the Ganga on April 12. The authorities struggled to enforce social distancing as maskless pilgrims squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on the banks of the Ganga jostling for a dip, despite surging coronavirus cases. (Image: Reuters)
Naga Sadhus, or Hindu holy men take a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
The number of tests was far less than expected despite the state government making a negative RT-PCR test mandatory. As per the report, devotees without a test report were allowed to take a dip. Additionally, no arrangements were made for thermal screening, and the new AI-enabled cameras were rendered useless as no action was taken against those found without a mask, the report said. (Image: Reuters)
A devotee reacts as a health worker collects a swab sample, on the banks of the Ganges river during Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
Haridwar reported over 1,000 COVID-19 cases in just two days as lakhs took a dip in the Ganga on the second shahi snan (royal bath) on April 12. The Uttarakhand state also on April 13 recorded the highest single-day spike in coronavirus cases and deaths this year as 1,925 more people tested positive and 13 patients succumbed to the virus.
A Naga Sadhu, or Hindu holy man, waits before the procession for taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
Even after flouting norms, the event will still take place and Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat appealed to the people to follow COVID guidelines during the third Shahi Snan on April 14. (Image: Reuters)
Naga Sadhus, or Hindu holy men participate in the procession for taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
CM Rawat said separate timings for the holy dip by each Akhada at Har ki Pauri have been earmarked while the rest of the Ghats will be open for devotees and asked all to wear masks, maintain social distancing, and sanitise their hands. Masks were not worn by a large proportion of devotees and social distancing appeared impossible at an event in which, according to Rawat, about 35 lakh people participated. (Image: Reuters)
Naga Sadhus, or Hindu holy men, get ready to take a dip in the Ganges river during the second Shahi Snan at Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
CM also said that Kumbh comes once in 12 years and is linked with the faith and sentiments of millions of people. "Holding it successfully amid the challenge posed by Covid-19 by ensuring that the SOP is strictly followed by all is our goal," he said. (Image: Reuters)
Sadhus participate in the third 'shahi snan' of MahaKumbh at Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar on April 14
But despite the rules, Sadhus participated in large number in the third 'shahi snan' of MahaKumbh at Har Ki Pauri ghat in Haridwar on April 14. (Image: ANI)
Devotees gather for an evening prayer on the banks of Ganges river during Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
On paper, every COVID-19 norm is expected to be followed. But when the sole focus is on crowd management, it’s impossible to impose norms like social distancing and mandatory testing at the mela place or even distributing hand sanitisers. (Image: Reuters)
Devotees gather for an evening prayer on the banks of Ganges river during Kumbh Mela, or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
Held once every three years, Kumbh Mela is often labelled the world's largest religious gathering, but the 2021 event has posed a challenge to health officials who are struggling to enforce pandemic safety measures. (Image: Reuters)
Naga Sadhus, or Hindu holy men, participate in the procession for taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
After many decades, Kumbh Mela is again being held during a pandemic which is also the most significant health epidemic since the 1918 influenza or Spanish Flu outbreak. Three waves of the Spanish Flu epidemic then had killed around 50 to 100 million people globally in 1918 and 1919. The outbreak that infected more than 500 million people killed around 18 million people in India. And this year too it is being held in the time of a health emergency. The festival attracts the largest human gathering in the world and the current mela is estimated to attract one million people daily or around five million people on the three more auspicious days. Overall, the festival is estimated to attract between 100 to 150 million people. (Image: Reuters)
Naga Sadhus, or Hindu holy men wearing face masks wait before the procession for taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
The religious event could well end up as a super-spreader with 102 people already found positive in the tests done on Monday. Such a large mass gathering, in fact, can be a Covid hotspot in itself as it may carry many silent carriers who, naturally, may not go through the local testing process but can infect a great number of people in the mela area or wherever they travel. (Image: Reuters)
Naga Sadhus, or Hindu holy men, leave after taking a dip in the Ganges river during Shahi Snan at "Kumbh Mela", or the Pitcher Festival, in Haridwar, India. (Image: Reuters)
This year’s Kumbh festival is again being held in similar circumstances like in the 19th century and, to some extent, in early years of 20th century in northern India when epidemics like cholera and plague were the main deterrents for the authorities. Haridwar and Allahabad held Kumbh Mela at a 12-year interval and Ardh Kumbh festivals at a six-year interval. (Image: Reuters)
Reuters
first published: Apr 14, 2021 10:36 am

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