"No Religion, God Says Put Lives At Risk For Festivals": Health Minister

Dr Vardhan also reminded people that the coronavirus was a respiratory virus and that the coming winter season may see increased rates of infection and transmission

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urged people to unite in the fight against Covid

New Delhi:

Preparations already on for the festive season, Union health minister Dr Harsh Vardhan on Sunday gave the people a reality check. "There is no need to congregate in large numbers to prove your faith or your religion... You can pray to your gods at your homes. I would suggest that all of you celebrate festivals with your families," he said, pointing to coronavirus which is still on rampage.

The country on Sunday crossed the 70-lakh mark in the overall number of covid cases, and stands slightly behind the US, which is the worst sufferer, logging more than 76 lakh cases.

But with Durga Puja, Dussehra, Diwali and Chhath Puja around the corner, there is concern about Covid numbers spiking as people drop the use of all safety norms. On October 6, Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had told the media that there has been a "huge spike in cases in Kerala for several days and a lot of it has to do with the Onam festivities".

Large gatherings are already happening. A shopping rush has already started in Bengal, and images from the city's key market areas show huge crowds where many people have even ditched the mask.  Ahead of Diwali, a similar situation is likely to play out in Delhi and the rest of north India.

"If we are careless in following coronavirus safety norms while celebrating festivals, the COVID-19 situation in the country will again worsen, and can create massive problems for us," Mr Harsh Vardhan said in a video address.

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"No religious leaders of any religion say that festivals should be celebrated by putting lives in danger... no Gods say you need to go to big pandals to pray. If you know there is fire outside and you still go out in the fire in the name of religion -- what's the point of such festivals," the minister said in a strong message.

Earlier on Sunday, the government said the country has crossed a "landmark milestone", as data showed 60 lakh recoveries from the novel coronavirus. The 24-hour figures have also come down to an average of 72,000 to 74,000 from the earlier 90,000-plus figure.

With 74,383 new infections, India's Covid tally stood at 70,53,806 this morning, data from the Health Ministry showed.

Over the last 24 hours, India reported 918 deaths linked to the virus, taking the total number of fatalities to 1,08,334. For the third day in a row the active cases of COVID-19 remained below 9 lakh.