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Agence France-Presse have a report today in from India, where religious festivals are this year able to go ahead with a background of far fewer Covid cases than last year.

The coronavirus is still claiming over 200 lives daily in the nation of 1.3 billion people, but that is down sharply from the 4,000 fatalities in April and May. Most activities are back to normal and India has administered almost a billion vaccine doses, with around 75 percent of people receiving at least one shot.

India’s peak holiday season includes Durga Puja, Dussehra and Diwali – major Hindu festivals celebrated with noise, colour and exuberance across the country.

In Kolkata on Thursday, crowds flocked to colourful “pandals”, temporary structures where idols of the Hindu goddess Durga are installed during the festivities.

A Durga idol as seen during Durga puja festival in Kolkata, India.


A Durga idol as seen during Durga puja festival in Kolkata, India. Photograph: Debarchan Chatterjee/NurPhoto/REX/Shutterstock

Traffic police in the West Bengal state’s capital used loudspeakers to remind people about physical distancing, but in vain, although many people wore masks.

“It’s festival time so people will come and people will enjoy. Now there are no restrictions, the government has allowed us (to celebrate) so we are enjoying out here,” Aradhana Gupta told AFP.

Hindu devotees light Diyas (clay lamps) in front of the idol of Lord Durga during the Sandhi Puja Ritual of Durga Ashtami.


Hindu devotees light Diyas (clay lamps) in front of the idol of Lord Durga during the Sandhi Puja Ritual of Durga Ashtami. Photograph: Avishek Das/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

Another reveller Riya Tai rued how she could not celebrate the festival last year when strict virus restrictions were in place.

“I am feeling happy (this time) although the crowd is excessive. I am sweating like hell but still I am enjoying it,” she said.

Women wearing pink dresses perform Garba dance on Juhu beach in Mumbai.


Women wearing pink dresses perform Garba dance on Juhu beach in Mumbai. Photograph: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/REX/Shutterstock

On Monday, prime minister Narendra Modi’s government kicked off a campaign dubbed “Mission 100 Days”, with fears that the long festive season could see a resurgence of Covid-19.

“We are asking states to be extra vigilant during the next 100 days, and ensure that Covid-appropriate behaviour is observed,” a government official was quoted as saying by the Hindustan Times newspaper. “Only then we will be able to save the country from an expected surge in cases.”