India's COVID-19 cases have increased 13-fold in less than two months, due to crowded election rallies and religious gatherings and festivals, where attendees often shun safety protocols.

Experts told Reuters that besides these factors, the country's premature reopening of its economy in a broad manner also contributed to the second wave of the deadly virus.

Yesterday, the country recorded a whopping 127,000 new cases - the highest in the world, and the third day this week where the number has remained over 100,000. At its peak in September last year, the highest cases was around 98,000 a day.

The city of Mumbai reopened its massive suburban train network and tens of thousands of spectators were allowed into stadiums to watch international cricket matches, just days after the country's health minister declared that the COVID-19 ourbreak had had been contained in late January.

People even shunned wearing face masks and social distancing rules while attending the political rallies of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Interior Minister Amit Shah, the report said.

There was also a misconception that the country had achieved herd immunity when the number of daily cases started plunging in January, leading to the loosening of restrictions.

With the current resurgence, Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had acknowledged to officials of the 11 worst-hit states that "people largely gave up on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, became very careless.

"There have been elections, religious gatherings, reopening of offices, lots of people travelling, attending social functions, not following rules, little mask-wearing in functions like weddings, even on crowded buses and trains," he reportedly told a video conference.

With 13 million cases, India is the third worst-hit country in the world by the pandemic. The top two are the United States and Brazil. Over 167,000 people have died from the virus in India.

Now experts are fearing that the month-long Kumbh Mela religious festival in the northern state of Uttarakhand, will become a a "super spreader" event as millions of devotees attend it, sans face masks and social distancing rules.

Authorities have refused to call off the festival as it seen as a crucial campaign for Modi's Hindu nationalist party BJP, which goes to the polls next year.

Despite India being the world's biggest vaccine maker, the country is running out of supply to immunize its own population, reported AFP.

So far, almost 90 million vaccine doses have been administered so far, but that's still less than six percent of the country's 1.4 billion population.

Source: Reuters
Photo source: Reuters