Mumbai gets ready to celebrate its biggest festival amid surging coronavirus cases
People walk in a crowded market amidst the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Mumbai, India, September 5, 2021. (Photo: Reuters)
As India's financial capital, Mumbai, gets ready for its biggest festival of the year, daily coronavirus cases have surged, rising more than two-fold in less than a month, even as authorities imposed curbs to prevent a further spike.
Markets were bustling and streets were crowded as people prepared for the 11-day festival of Ganesh Chaturthi, celebrating the elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesha, which begins on Friday.
Coronavirus cases in the city, which were at a low of 190 on Aug. 16, rose to 530 daily infections on Wednesday, according to government data. Mumbai recorded a peak of 11,000 cases during India's devastating second wave this year, but won accolades for the way it recovered and curbed infections.
Most coronavirus-related restrictions have been lifted in the city, including on its famed local trains, which are now open to fully vaccinated travellers. But as the Ganesh festival approaches, authorities have imposed fresh curbs on public processions and restricted crowding at public pandals - temporary structures built to protect a shrine.
Before the coronavirus outbreak hit the city, thousands of people thronged the streets to pray to towering idols of Ganesha, which are placed at almost every street corner by local organisations and politicians, and on the last day of the festival, to immerse those idols in the sea.
This year, citizens are forbidden from visiting such pandals and the city's civic body, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, suggested that only 10 people, preferably fully vaccinated, should accompany the idol for immersion.
"The third wave is not coming. It is already here," Mumbai mayor Kishori Pednekar told reporters this week, urging citizens to stay home and celebrate the festival.
As the festival season gets under way in India, several states are preparing for a possible third wave of the coronavirus.
On Thursday, the health ministry said 43,263 fresh cases were reported overnight, taking its cumulative caseload to 33.14 millon.
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