Throwing caution to the wind amid the alarming surge in coronavirus cases, lakhs of people gathered on the ghats in Haridwar to take a dip in the Ganga River on the third day of shahi snan (royal bath) of the Kumbh Mela on Wednesday.
As per the latest report on coronavirus cases in Uttarakhand, more than 1,200 people have tested positive for Covid-19 since April 10, including 18 seers. However, the RT-PCR reports of test done on Kumbh attendees on April 13 and April 14 is still pending.
According to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary Om Prakash, the devotees' count for Wednesday's shahi snan was much less than expected. Over 13.5 lakh people, including sadhus from 13 akhadas, had bathed in the Ganga by the end of the day on April 14.
On Mesh Sankranti day during the last Kumbh Mela in 2010, about 1.6 crore people bathed in the Ganga at Haridwar, Om Prakash added.
The shahi snans have triggered concerns over their role in possibly adding to rising coronavirus cases in the country. Uttarakhand recorded its highest single-day spike in Covid cases this year on Wednesday with 1,953 people testing positive.
Dehradun with 796 cases and Haridwar with 525 were the biggest contributors to the day's tally, followed by Nainital 205, Udham Singh Nagar 118, Almora 92, Pauri 79 and Tehri 78. Thirteen more coronavirus deaths were reported across the state.
Many seers had resisted undergoing Covid tests at the mela site, fearing they will be stopped from the coming shahi snans, an official said. Haridwar's Chief Medical Officer Shambhu Kumar Jha said most agreed to go for the RT-PCR test once Wednesday's snan was over. Private and government labs have been set up at 77 spots in the mela area, he said.