India is still not out of the woods when it comes to the second wave of COVID-19 and people should celebrate festivals like Diwali, Eid, Navratri and Ganesh Chaturthi at home without gathering in large numbers, the Health Ministry said on Thursday.
"Festivals are like Ganesh Chaturthi, Navratri and Eid coming. This year too, like the last year, they will need to be celebrated in a restrictive manner, and it is our appeal to all to stay at home," Dr VK Paul, member of the government's think tank NITI Aayog and chief of the COVID-19 task force on COVID-19 said.
"Like last year, festivals need to be celebrated in a subdued manner. Wearing masks is an absolute must while in any public place," he added, speaking at the Health Ministry's news briefing on the coronavirus pandemic.
Dr Balram Bhargava, Director-General at the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said, "We are still in the second wave of COVID-19 and hence appeal to all in the country to continue with all Covid restrictions in your area. Follow COVID-19 SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures) and maintain Covid-appropriate behaviour."
India reported the biggest single-day rise in COVID-19 cases in two months on Thursday, amid concerns about the virus spreading from the most-affected Kerala, schools reopening, and the start of the festival season.
Densely populated Kerala, accounted for nearly 70 per cent of the 47,092 new infections and a third of deaths, a week after it celebrated its biggest festival during which family and social gatherings were common.
"With cases rising in Kerala, adequate steps should be taken to contain the inter-state spread of COVID-19," Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said in a statement after speaking with his state counterparts in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, which border Kerala.
He asked them to increase vaccination in the districts close to Kerala. India has so far administered 66.2 crore doses, with at least one dose in 54 per cent of its 94.4 crore adults and the required two doses in 16 per cent.
Vaccinations have soared in recent days as supplies have improved. And as more than two-thirds of Indians are believed to already have COVID-fighting antibodies, mainly through natural infection, experts think another national surge in cases will be less deadly than the last one in April and May when tens of thousands of people died and hospitals ran out of beds and oxygen.
India has so far reported about 3.29 crore infections, the most in the world after the United States. Deaths went up by 509 on Thursday to a total of more than 4.39 lakh, which experts say is a massive undercount.