India restricts religious festivals over fears of new Covid-19 wave

MUMBAI Indian authorities are restricting major religious festivals that start this week, warning that a new Covid-19 wave had already begun in the financial capital Mumbai.

State governments across the country of 1.3 billion which saw a devastating coronavirus surge in April-May, are clamping down on mass gatherings.

"The third wave is not coming, it is already here," Mumbai's mayor Kishori Pednekar said on Tuesday.

Mr Uddhav Thackeray, Chief Minister of Maharashtra, of which Mumbai is the capital, added: "We can celebrate festivals later. Let us first prioritise the lives and health of our citizens."

He was speaking ahead of the 11-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival, which starts tomorrow.

The last Covid-19 wave overwhelmed India's hospitals and killed more than 200,000 people.

It struck after one of the world's biggest religious gatherings, the Kumbh Mela, which attracted some 25 million Hindu pilgrims.

The state government will limit the height of effigies of the god Ganesha to reduce the number of devotees carrying them during the festival. Processions on the festival's first and last days will be banned.

Restrictions on movements and activities are expected to be introduced this week as cases rise in another major Maharashtra city, Nagpur.

In the neighbouring state of Karnataka, a night curfew will remain in place and districts posting higher positive test levels will be banned from holding Ganesh celebrations.

India has the world's second-highest known caseload, with more than 33 million infections and 441,000 deaths. - REUTERS