Despite a worrying upsurge in coronavirus cases in Uttar Pradesh, three top hotspot districts celebrated the Holi festival without following any Covid protocols. Varanasi, Mathura and Prayagraj - the state's major religious tourism destinations - witnessed large crowds that came out on the streets ignoring Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath's appeal to keep the coronavirus situation in mind while celebrating the festival. Shockingly, in Prayagraj, where fresh cases have risen by 78 percent in a week, massive crowds without masks celebrated the festival on two consecutive days - Monday and Tuesday.
This comes even as Uttar Pradesh emerged on top of the list of nine states where Covid cases have doubled in a week. A majority of Uttar Pradesh's cases are in the capital Lucknow, which reported 499 fresh cases on Monday. Varanasi, Mathura and Prayagraj are among the top five hotspots of the state.
Asked about the flagrant violation of Covid norms, district administrations appeared to be passing the buck.
"And what of the people? They are not guilty? Should the administration go and roam around with a stick? We have been disseminating information since last year about this - should the public not listen to us?" Dr Prabhakar Rai, Prayagraj's Chief Medical Officer, told NDTV.
Mathura, the city famous all over the world for its traditional 'lath-maar' and 'laddu-maar' Holi versions, reported a spike of 454 percent in just one week - from 11 new cases on March 22 to 61 on March 29. A top district official said that the administration had been making appeals to the people to follow the protocols but "religious sentiments were involved".
"Religious sentiments of people are involved. Mathura and Vrindavan are both religious centres. But people should follow social distancing," Dr Rachna Gupta, Mathura's Chief Medical Officer, said.
In Varanasi, which is one of the world's top spiritual destinations, a massive 120 per cent jump in new cases has been recorded in a week.
"I agree that the festival crowd has contributed (to the surge). Populations have got mixed. I think till now it is well managed, but we are appealing to people through loudspeakers to take all precautions," said Dr BB Singh, Varanasi's Chief Medical Officer.
On Monday, Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had flagged the worry over the surge in cases in UP. "I appeal to people across the state to celebrate enthusiastically, but to also be aware of the Covid situation. Please do not do anything that will weaken the country's fight against the virus", he had said.