Thousands of devotees were seen at Hapur's Brajghat, Uttar Pradesh, today, come for a dip in the river on the religious festival Ganga Dussehra, flouting all safety norms for Covid. It is not yet known if the gathering - coming only as the second wave of Covid is beginning to relent -- had permission of the authorities.
Public gatherings - religious or otherwise - are still banned under the restrictions announced by the Yogi Adityanath government as the second wave of the disease flared up.
The huge gathering during the Kumbhmela at Haridwar in April was said to be one of the key reasons for the rapid peaking of the second wave of the virus, which tore through the country in April and May demolishing the healthcare system and killing thousands.
The gathering at Hapur comes as Uttar Pradesh allowed the opening of shopping malls and restaurants today after a gap of more than two months.
"As per the government's unlocking guidelines only five people are allowed at a time at any religious place. Keeping this in mind, bathing during Ganga Dussehra is banned due to the pandemic," a Hapur District Magistrate order read.
Doctors and public health experts, however, have warned that the rapid pace of unlock, coupled with the public disregard for Covid-safety norms may bring about the third wave of the disease much earlier than expected.
Dr Randeep Guleria, chief of Delhi's All-India Institute of Medical Sciences and a member of the Centre's Covid Task Force, has told NDTV that a third wave of Covid in India is "inevitable", and it may hit the country shortly -- in another six to eight weeks.
"As we have started unlocking, there is again a lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour. We don't seem to have learnt from what happened between the first and the second wave. Again crowds are building up... people are gathering. It will take some time for the number of cases to start rising at the national level," Dr Guleria told NDTV.
"Third wave is inevitable and it could hit the country within the next six to eight weeks... may be a little longer... It all depends on how we go ahead in terms of Covid-appropriate behaviour and preventing crowds," he said.
The second wave is brought on by the lack of Covid-appropriate behaviour aftr the first wave abated, the government had said. Coupled with this was the spread of the Delta variant of the virus, which is expected to have a role in the third wave as well.