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June 17 2021
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Previous story India's daily virus infections are world's highest but crowds gather for festival Next story
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by Neha Arora, Rajendra Jadhav
 
India has millions ignoring covid dangers India’s second wave of infections builds
 
NEW DELHI, India - Hundreds of thousands of Hindu devotees flocked on Monday to take a holy bath in India's Ganges river, even as the nation racked up the world's highest tally of new daily coronavirus infections.

With 168,912 new cases, India accounts for one in six of all new infections globally, although the figure is still well below the U.S. peak of nearly 300,000 new cases on Jan. 8.

In the northern city of Haridwar, nearly a million devotees thronged the banks of the Ganges, a river many Hindus consider holy, to participate in the months-long "Kumbh Mela' or pitcher festival.

"The crowd here is surging...the police are continuously appealing to people to maintain social distancing," police official Sanjay Gunjyal told Reuters at the site.

By mid-morning a million people had taken a dip in the river, believed to wash away one's sins.

As India's second wave of infections builds, with fewer than 4% estimated to have been vaccinated among a population of 1.4 billion, experts say the situation could have a long way to go before it starts getting better.

"After cases declined in January-February, we were very comfortable," said a panel of high court judges in the western state of Gujarat, calling on authorities to take urgent steps to rein in the outbreak.

"Almost everyone forgot that there was ever corona," added the panel, headed by Chief Justice Vikram Nath.

A full opening of the economy from last year's crippling lockdown, coupled with the mass religious festivals and political rallies in states heading to elections have fuelled the crisis.

Monday's new infections carried India past Brazil for a tally of 13.53 million, data compiled by Reuters shows, ranking it the second-most infected country after the United States, with 31.2 million.