India's holy bathe in Ganges despite COVID

In the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, thousands of devotees, few wearing masks, thronged the river's banks. A large number of devotees were also taking a dip in the sacred river where it flows through the eastern state of West Bengal, which is reporting the highest number of cases in the country after Maharashtra state in the west.

India is again facing a surge in coronavirus cases, fuelled mostly by the highly transmissible Omicron variant, but hospitalizations are low, with most people recovering at home.

Doctors had appealed unsuccessfully to the West Bengal state high court to reverse a decision to allow the festival this year, worrying it will become a virus "super spreader" event. Last year, a big religious gathering in northern India contributed to a record rise in coronavirus cases.

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