Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a massive rally Thursday that appeared to flout public health protocols.
Modi spoke before hundreds of thousands of people on Thursday to announce development projects in his constituency of Varanasi in northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, but in videos from the event shared by Modi’s office, few among the throngs of supporters were wearing masks. There appeared to be little social distancing.
Uttar Pradesh, India’s most populous state is set to hold elections in early 2022. Although Modi has not held any election rallies yet in the state, he has been holding large gatherings, prompting concerns that lax attitudes toward Covid-19 could lead to another surge of cases with the Omicron variant looming.
Modi has made multiple appeals to the public to wear masks and get vaccinated. On Wednesday evening in a meeting with top government officials, he instructed authorities to ensure an adequate health infrastructure is in place to deal with any emerging challenges due to Omicron, his office said.
The national government has yet to put any restrictions in place on public gatherings, and is unlikely to do so. During the country’s devastating second wave of Covid-19 cases, there was no nationwide lockdown. Modi deferred to state-level governments, and 35 of 36 of them put in place their own restrictions during that period.
As cases rise again, authorities in Uttar Pradesh announced a curfew would be put in place from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. starting on December 25. Other cities like Mumbai, New Delhi and states like Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh have also announced covid protocols including limiting gatherings ahead of Christmas and New Year. There is currently no nationwide ban or limit on any kind of gatherings.
The federal government has not enacted any Covid-related restrictions within the country.
India on Friday reported 34,772,626 cases of Covid-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, which includes at least 236 cases of the Omicron variant and 479,133 deaths, according to the Indian Ministry of Health.
India’s Prime Minister spoke at a massive rally without much social distancing yesterday