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Indians gather for Holi celebrations as virus cases rise

NEW DELHI (AP) – Hindus are spraying colored powder and water on mass Holi celebrations on Monday, despite many Indian states restricting gatherings in a bid to stem the spread of the coronavirus, which is rampant across the country.

Holi marks the coming of spring և is widely celebrated throughout India by the Hindu majority. For years, millions of people have been throwing colored powder at each other at outdoor celebrations. For the second year in a row, people were encouraged to stay home to avoid celebrating overcrowded events amid the latest wave of the virus.

The number of infections confirmed by India in the last week has exceeded 60,000, from a minimum of 10,000 in February. On Monday, the Ministry of Health reported 68,020 new cases, the fastest daily increase since October last year. It made the nationwide estimate of more than 12 million.

The daily mortality rate has increased by 291, and the virus has so far killed 161,843 people in the country.

The latest wave is concentrated in the western state of Maharashtra, where authorities have tightened travel restrictions and imposed a night curfew. It discusses strict blocking.

Incidents are also rising in the capital New Delhi, Punjab, Karnataka, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Madhya Pradesh.

The rise coincides with a multi-stage state election marked by large gatherings, road shows, and the Kumbb Melan or Pitcher Festival, celebrated in the north of Haridwar, where tens of thousands of Hindu devotees take a dip in the Ganges River.

Health experts are concerned that unverified gatherings could lead to clusters, adding that the situation could be controlled if more people were vaccinated and the COVID-19 protocols strictly adhered to.

India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, has vaccinated about 60 million people, of whom only 9 million have received two doses of the vaccine so far.

However, more than 60 million doses produced in India have been exported abroad, which has led to widespread criticism that domestic needs must be met first.

Last week, the government announced that there would be no immediate increase in exports. It says the vaccines will be available to anyone over the age of 45 from April 1.

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