When a devastating second wave of coronavirus infections hit India within the spring, hospitals have been overwhelmed with sick sufferers and crematories struggled to bury the useless as the bodies piled up.

Now India is celebrating one its most necessary holidays — Diwali, the pageant of lights — and plenty of concern one other wave of infections as tens of millions collect for the celebrations.

“We let our guard down on this Diwali,” stated Dr. Thekkekara Jacob John, a former head of medical virology at Christian Medical Faculty within the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu. “Regardless of authorities and well being specialists’ warnings, folks suppose the virus is gone — it isn’t.”

The vacation started on Thursday, and there’s no information but on what impression the festivities may be having on the nation’s battle to curb the unfold of the virus. However epidemiologists stated that they already had issues.

Folks have been thronging markets with little social distancing, and a whole bunch of hundreds traveled across the nation this week to have a good time the vacation with their members of the family.

“For this Diwali, folks nearly forgot the virus remains to be right here and killing folks,” stated Dr. Prakash Singh, a virologist in New Delhi, India’s capital.

Final 12 months’s pageant was noticed with out the same old fanfare of group prayers and fireworks. Then, the authorities deployed cops in residential areas to limit massive gatherings. Lots of of individuals in New Delhi have been fined for breaching coronavirus restrictions.

Earlier than this 12 months’s gatherings, well being officers in India had already been warning of a doable third wave of infections, though the second wave has at finest solely leveled off. A relaxed perspective — mixed with the vacation festivities — may hamper the nation’s combat towards the virus, they stated.

Through the second wave within the spring, the nation skilled one of many world’s worst coronavirus surges, reaching a tragic peak in early May of greater than 400,000 circumstances reported per day, with 4,500 day by day deaths.

However as vaccinations picked up after a gradual and chaotic preliminary rollout, India noticed circumstances plummet. Greater than three out of 4 adults have now acquired at the least one vaccine shot, based on authorities information. And Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s authorities lately lifted an eight-month ban on vaccine exports.

Greater than 680,000 folks flew from airports throughout the nation on Monday within the lead-up to the pageant, authorities officers stated.

The surge in journey was an obvious signal of confidence within the nation’s inoculation marketing campaign, with 54 % of the inhabitants having acquired at the least one shot and 25 % having been absolutely inoculated, based on the Our World in Information undertaking on the College of Oxford.

Throughout a strict lockdown from late March to late Might final 12 months, most of India’s Covid-19 circumstances have been concentrated in city areas. However as restrictions on interstate journey have been eased, many individuals began shifting from the cities to rural areas, bringing the virus with them. That’s what specialists concern would possibly occur this time.

On Friday, a throat-burning cloud settled over New Delhi, swallowing nationwide monuments, because the air high quality deteriorated to the “extreme” class a day after Diwali. Regardless of a authorities ban, folks had celebrated the vacation by setting off fireworks.

Amit Tandon, a businessman within the northern Indian metropolis of Chandigarh whose spouse died throughout the second wave of infections in April, stated that he was pained by the scenes of individuals celebrating the vacation whereas ignoring well being restrictions.

“Once I noticed folks mixing collectively with out masks and bursting firecrackers, my blood boiled,” he stated. “Solely those that misplaced their family members understand how this illness can destroy households and lives.”