Virus spreads fear during festival season in India as infections reach 6 million

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By Alasdair Pal and Sumit Khanna

NEW DELHI / AHMEDABAD, India, September 28 (Reuters) – India reported on Monday that new coronavirus infections had exceeded 6 million, far from the number required for herd immunity in a country of 1.3 billion people, and increasing anxiety as the peak period for Hindu Religious Holidays approaches.

India added a million cases in just 11 days, according to a Reuters tally of government data, and it has the second-highest number of infections, behind the United States which crossed 7 million last week.

The festival season in India, which culminates in October and November with popular Hindu celebrations of Dussehra and Diwali, poses additional challenges, as officials try to curb the usual large public celebrations and travel across the country.

Typically, the festival season brings with it a big increase in consumer spending, and this year’s darker atmosphere will further dampen an economy that contracted by almost a quarter in the three months leading up to June – the worst number ever.

The government of the western state of Gujarat has said it will not hold an event to mark the nine-day Navratri festival which is due to start on October 17.

“Navratri celebrations are business for garba (dance) classes, halls, decorators, food and water suppliers, orchestras, security agencies, sound system suppliers, music vendors. artificial clothing and jewelry, ”Samir Shah, director of Gujarat-based Archie Events, told Reuters.

“The economic impact is huge for everyone involved.”

Major cities in the state like Ahmedabad, Surat and Vadodara host dozens of large private events every year, which organizers say will almost certainly be canceled.

Normally, thousands of people attend these gatherings every day during the festival, and Shah said a major dance event would provide at least 250-300 people with temporary employment.

Data from the Department of Health on Monday showed there were 82,170 new infections in the past 24 hours. The daily death toll was 1,039, bringing the total number of victims to 95,542, the ministry said.

As daily cases are slightly down from the peak reached earlier this month, the federal government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi has urged Indians to be on guard as the country’s often fragile healthcare system has struggling to manage the growing number of cases. are far from having obtained any form of collective immunity, which obliges all of us to continue to follow appropriate behavior in COVID, ”Indian Minister of Health, Harsh Vardhan, told his subscribers on Sunday on social networks.

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