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India: Thousands of devotees gather to join Hindu festival as COVID surges

 Hindu devotees have gathered to take holy dips in the Ganges River during Kumbh Mela, or pitcher festival for special prayers on Monday, April 12, 2021. Hundreds of thousands attendees appeared defying social distancing as the coronavirus spreads daily record high in India.

Currently, India is experiencing its worst pandemic surge with a daily record of 168,912 COVID-19 cases infections reported as of Monday.

The festival which will run through April has created concerns that Kumbh Mela could turn a super spreader event. State chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat said last week "the faith in God will overcome the fear of the virus."

Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed with patients, and experts worry the worst is yet to come.

Critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party say the festival has been allowed at a time when infections are skyrocketing because the government is not willing to anger Hindus, who are the party’s biggest supporters.

With the surge showing no sign of slowing, India’s confirmed infections since the pandemic began surpassed Brazil’s total on Monday to make it the second-worst hit country in the world.

The current surge has hit hardest in Western Maharashtra state, home to the financial capital Mumbai.

The state has accounted for nearly half of the country’s new infections in the past two weeks.

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