Religious, political gatherings contributed to COVID surge in India: WHO

New Delhi: Amid a surge in COVID cases in India, the World Health Organization has linked the surge in coronavirus cases in India to religious and political gatherings in the country. In its weekly epidemiological update on the pandemic released on Tuesday, the health body flagged flouting of Covid norms in such events.

According to a statement: “A recent risk assessment of the situation in India conducted by WHO found that resurgence and acceleration of Covid-19 transmission in India had several potential contributing factors, including an increase in the proportion of cases of SARS-CoV-2 variants with potentially increased transmissibility; several religious and political mass gathering events which increased social mixing and, underuse of and reduced adherence to public health and social measures.”

The WHO, however, added that the exact contributions of these factors on increased transmission in India were not well understood yet. It added that the resurgence in number of cases and deaths has raised questions on the potential role of B.1.617 and other variants of the virus. The B.1.617 strain was first detected in India in October last year and the WHO has classified it as a variant of global concern.

Notably, panchayat polls in Uttar Pradesh and the Assembly elections to four states and a Union Territory was held in India even as the second wave of the pandemic continued to mount. Besides, the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar also raised alarms as lakhs of devotees assembled, flouting Covid-19 norms, in Uttarakhand last month, and the event coincided with a rise in cases in the district.

On Tuesday, Allahabad High Court held that the Election Commission, higher courts and the government had failed to “fathom the disastrous consequences” of holding elections during the second wave. Earlier, the Madras High Court , in an oral observation, had said that the Election Commission was “singularly responsible” for the second wave and should be booked on charges of murder.

The violation of Covid-19 protocols at Kumbh Mela had attracted attention from across the world. However, state authorities, including Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, tried to downplay the risks. On April 17, Narendra Modi had said that the celebration should be held as a “symbolic event” due to the coronavirus situation.


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