|Tens of thousands of devotees are expected to attend the Magh Mela in Prayagraj. (Photo by= Getty Images)|
[Asia News = Reporter Reakkana] Thousands of Hindu pilgrims have begun arriving in the northern Indian city of Prayagraj (formerly Allahabad) for a festival amid a massive surge in Covid-19 infections, BBC reported. Devotees believe that bathing in the river Ganges during the Makar Sankranti festival would cleanse their sins. A similar gathering had contributed to India's deadly second wave last year. But the authorities in Uttar Pradesh state, where Prayagraj is located, have refused to ban this year's event.
On Thursday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath appealed to people to follow all necessary Covid protocols during the event, known as Magh Mela. However, infections are being reported from the mela ground even before the start of the event. A large tent city has sprung up on the riverbank in the past few days to house the pilgrims and authorities say more than 5,000 policemen are being deployed to manage the crowds.
Senior police official Rajeev Narayan Mishra confirmed on Thursday that at least 38 police personnel on duty had tested positive, sparking fears that the festival could turn into an infection hotspot in the coming days. India is in the midst of a third wave of the pandemic, believed to be fuelled by the Omicron variant of the coronavirus.