Only 650 tourists will be allowed inside the premises of the Taj Mahal at any point of time. File photo
India is reopening its famed marvel of love, the Taj Mahal, and several other monuments as the country, still reeling from a disastrous second wave of the pandemic, rushes to lift restrictions in a bid to revitalise its economy.
The 17th century monument, built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in the northern city of Agra, was closed in early April as India introduced strict lockdown measures in an effort to contain a surge in COVID-19 infections that is still killing thousands every day, according to Reuters.
District Magistrate Prabhu Narain Singh said 650 tourists with online bookings will be allowed a day to visit the white marble Taj Mahal from Wednesday. Temperatures will be checked at the gates, face masks must be worn and social distancing norms must be observed.
The state of Uttar Pradesh, where Agra is located, reported 270 new infections overnight and 56 deaths. It is among India's hardest states in terms of total COVID-19 cases.
Indian Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 62,224 new infections in the past 24 hours.
Other federally protected monuments, including New Delhi's Red Fort and Qutub Minar, were also re-opened to tourists on Wednesday, even as alarm bells ring in the world's second most populous country over a resurgence of crowds in major cities that threatens to fuel another spike in infections.
The monument was closed in April amid a surge of new infections in India.
The Health Ministry on Wednesday reported 62,224 new infections in the past 24 hours, which is down from a peak of more than 400,000 new infections a day in April.
It also reported 2,542 deaths in the past 24 hours, raising total fatalities to 379,573. Both figures are believed to be vast undercounts.
The city of Agra, where the Taj Mahal is located, reported 10 new infections on Tuesday, down from a peak of 500 a day in April.
In New Delhi, authorities are reopening shops, malls and restaurants this week. Restrictions also have been eased in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai and other cities with a drop in new infections.
Authorities are still warning people to wear face masks and maintain a safe distance.
Only 650 tourists will be allowed inside the premises of the Taj Mahal at any point of time, Prabhu Singh, the District Magistrate of Agra said. The white marble monument normally attracts 7 million to 8 million visitors annually, or an average of over 20,000 people per day.
The annual three day Urs of Mughal emperor Shah Jahan, builder of the iconic Taj Mahal, will not be held, as the historic monuments including the Taj in the city have been shut down till March 31, in the wake of COVID-19.
After changing the names of Allahabad to Prayagraj and Mughalsarai to Deen Dayal Upadhyaya Nagar, the Yogi Adityanath government in Uttar Pradesh is planning to change the name of Agra to Agravan.
With a heavy deployment of police, paramilitary and special commandos, the city that proudly flaunts one of the wonders of the world, the Taj Mahal, doesn't look like what it ever looked before.
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