With the Dussehra-Diwali festivities behind, health authorities and administrators are now bracing themselves for the big challenge of holding a Kumbh Mela in the congested city of Haridwar, which is expected to draw millions of people even as India's Covid-19 counts have started rising days after Diwali.
Government sources said that the Kumbh would be held as usual between January and April, but they are silent on the special arrangements that need to be put in place in order to organise such a mega-gathering in the middle of the pandemic.
"I don’t think anyone has factored in the risks associated with the Kumbh. There are justifiable public health worries,” K Srinath Reddy, president, Public Health Foundation of India told DH.
“No doubt, its a tremendous challenge. The administration needs to devise special strategy and start preparations,” said IIT Kanpur mathematician Manindra Agarwal, who is a part of the government-backed panel that predicted that the epidemic would run its course by February 2021.
Earlier this month, Uttarakhand government approved proposals worth nearly Rs 300 crore for the 2021 Kumbh at Haridwar including construction of a 150-bed hospital and a 1,000-bed Covid care centre. In addition, an extensive police surveillance system would be put in place by February 2021 for crowd management in a Covid-19 appropriate manner.
The first Shahi Snan is scheduled on March 21 and the last Shahi Snan would be on April 27. In between millions would visit the temple town and adjoining places like Rishikesh, Roorkee and Dehradun. In fact the visitors will start pouring in from January 14 (Makar Sankranti).
The rising Covid-19 numbers post Diwali adds to the public health concerns as warned by the Union Health Ministry last week. The number of new cases are on a rise since the last four days after dipping below 30,000 on November 17.
The seven-day running average data maintained by the National Institute of Epidemiology too showed the beginning of a rising trend.
In the last 24 hours, as many as 46,232 new cases were registered taking the tally to 90.5 lakh. The death toll stands at 132,726 out of which 564 were added in the past 24 hours.