Taj Mahal reopens amid sharp rise in COVID-19 cases

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A worker sanitizes railings in the premises of Taj Mahal in Agra, India. — Courtesy photo
A worker sanitizes railings in the premises of Taj Mahal in Agra, India. — Courtesy photo

NEW DELHI — India reopened the Taj Mahal after six months on Monday, with the first visitors trickling into the famous monument as authorities reported 86,961 new coronavirus infections across the country, with no signs of a peak yet.

The white marble tomb in the northern city of Agra, built by a 17th-century Mughal emperor for his wife, was opened to the public at sunrise, and a Chinese national and a visitor from Delhi were among the first to enter.

Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, versus an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Tickets are only being sold online, with fewer than 300 bought on the first day.

Visitors will have their temperatures taken and must adhere to advice to keep a safe distance from each other.

Workers at the Taj were sanitizing the handrails while paramilitary police shouted at tourists not to touch any of the surfaces.

“We are following all COVID-19 protocols,” said Vasant Swarnkar, superintendent of the Archaeological Survey of India, which oversees the Taj among other monuments.

India’s coronavirus tally of 5.49 million infections is second only to the United States with 6.79 million, a figure the South Asian nation could overtake in the next few weeks at its current rate of increase.

The death toll of 87,882 was up 1,130 from the previous day, health ministry figures showed.

But as a proportion of its population, India’s toll is still small compared to countries such as the United States, Brazil and Britain. — Agencies


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