Lakhs of women across Kerala have lined up streets to celebrate Attukal Pongala festival, considered as the largest gathering of women, amid renewed fears over coronavirus after six fresh cases were confirmed in the state since Sunday. Several women - participating in the festivity - were seen wearing masks.
In Thiruvananthapuram, the main hub for Attukal Pongala festivity and rituals, women from neighbouring states are also participating. It's also a big draw for tourists.
"My family was against me coming to Thiruvananthapuram in the beginning. But I persuaded them, told them that I would wear mask all through. I have to pay my offering to Attukal Devi," said 62-year-old Shobhana, who has travelled with a group of women from Kozhikode to Thiruvananhapuram.
Kerala Health Minister KK Shailaja on Sunday had dismissed the possibility of cancelling the festival celebrations that require massive preparations at the last moment over coronavirus, which originated in China in December and has spread to over 100 countries since then.
Last month, all three coronavirus patients in Kerala - first ones to contract infection in the country - had recovered. However, fresh cases were reported on Sunday when five of a family tested positive. Three of them with travel history to Italy, did not disclose their travel history to medical or airport teams, and apparently infected others in the family.
This morning, Kerala reported its ninth case in two months - a three-year-old - as the total number of confirmed cases in India increased to 41.
The parents of a three-year-old boy along with him had also recently travelled to Italy hospital isolation ward from the airport on March 7, after the child showed some symptoms. Italy - where 366 people have died due to the illness, over 7,000 have been infected - has emerged another hub of the outbreak after China.
Kerala Health Minister has appealed to anyone with illness to avoid coming out to public places.
According to Thiruvananthapuram District Collector K Gopalakrishnan several measures have been put in place to control the spread.
"Twenty-three medical teams, 40 ambulances including bike ambulances will be positioned across Thiruvananthapuram. Local teams have been identified to monitor specific areas in the city. Local teams will keep track of the people in their area and their health condition," he said.
"Devotees will be under video surveillance and all hotels have been to arrange Pongala facilities for foreigners within their premises. Near the temple- we will have regular announcement, que management and equipments will be sanitized regularly," he added.