India slams public's 'gross violations' of COVID-19 measures

There was public outrage after pictures and video emerged on social media of traffic congestion on the way to the popular sites and large numbers of people - some maskless - visiting shopping districts with no social distancing.

A volunteer distributes a cold sweet drink to people during a hot summer day, in Amritsar in India on July 2, 2021. Picture: AFP.

NEW DELHI - The Indian government on Monday slammed huge crowds at popular northern tourist spots, saying such "gross violations" of COVID-19 health measures could spark a new surge in infections.

The vast nation of 1.3 billion people was hit by a record-breaking wave in cases and deaths in April and May that pushed the healthcare system to its breaking point.

The crisis has since eased, with numerous states removing restrictions and reopening holidaying spots.

With northern India sweltering in the summer heat ahead of the arrival of the annual monsoon, big crowds travelled to the picturesque Himalayan states of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh.

There was public outrage after pictures and video emerged on social media of traffic congestion on the way to the popular sites and large numbers of people - some maskless - visiting shopping districts with no social distancing.

"The virus is still between us... One mistake can give the virus a chance to spread among us," senior health ministry official Lav Agarwal warned Tuesday during a media briefing.

Images of crowded areas that included markets in the capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai were showed during the briefing with the words "gross violations of COVID appropriate behaviour can nullify the gains so far".

"The pictures are frightening," added Balram Bhargava, the director-general of the country's lead pandemic agency the Indian Council of Medical Research.

Two markets in Delhi were ordered shut by authorities this week for being overcrowded, according to local media.

India has reported more than 30 million infections and over 400,000 deaths. Experts say the actual numbers could be much higher amid claims of underreporting.

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