India’s famed Taj Mahal re-opens for tourists as COVID-19 curbs ease

BENGALURU, June 16 (Reuters) – India’s iconic Taj Mahal reopened to the public on Wednesday as the country, still hit by a catastrophic second wave of the pandemic, rushes to lift restrictions to revitalize its economy .

The 17th-century memorial, built by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in the northern city of Agra, was closed in early April when India put in place strict lockdown measures to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections that still kill thousands every day .

Only 650 tourists will enter the Taj Mahal grounds at any one time, said Agra district judge Prabhu Singh. The white marble monument typically attracts 7 to 8 million visitors annually, which is an average of over 20,000 people a day.

The state of Uttar Pradesh, where Agra is located, reported 270 new infections and 56 deaths overnight. It is among the toughest states in India in terms of the total number of COVID-19 cases.

Other federally protected monuments, including the Red Fort in New Delhi and the Qutub Minar, were also reopened to tourists on Wednesday, despite the alarm bells ringing in the world’s second largest country of a resurgence of crowds in major cities that anticipate further increases threatens to stir up infections. Continue reading

Indian media this week reported traffic jams and a surge in tourists at Shimla’s northern hill station, famous for its scenic views of the snow-capped peaks of the Himalayas, adding to fears about the spread of the virus.

The Indian Ministry of Health reported 62,224 new COVID-19 infections overnight on Wednesday, slightly higher than the previous day’s numbers but still well below the May high of over 400,000 daily infections.

The South Asian country’s total COVID-19 cases now stands at 29.63 million while the total death toll stands at 379,573, the data showed. India added 2,542 deaths overnight.

Reporting by Nallur Sethuraman in Bengaluru; Adaptation by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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