Rajasthan has reported over 3,000 new Covid cases per day for four straight days, with the 3,314 infections detected Tuesday taking the state’s active caseload past the 4,000-mark.
Within the state Jaipur reported the most of any city – 656 – in the past 24 hours. The spike in the state capital worried authorities enough that a night curfew and other measures were announced this week.
There is another source of worry – 3,000 weddings will be held in Jaipur over the next few days.
A majority of these weddings will be held on Wednesday – a day called dev uthani ekadashi, which is one of the more auspicious dates for wedding ceremonies.
At bazaars in the Old City (which sell traditional wedding paraphernalia), the narrow by-lanes are abuzz with shoppers braving the novel coronavirus. In one shop, which sells sherwanis, Ramesh is trying one out for his wedding. His brother admits to concerns but shrugs off the “inevitable”.
“We are worried about coronavirus, but what can one do? We have to buy essential items for the wedding. Now cases are likely to rise but that is inevitable,” Mahesh, the brother, says.
“Obviously my wedding cannot be like I would want it but what to do? The date has been fixed so we will manage with fewer guests. I cannot call as many people as I would like,” the groom adds.
During the pandemic the number of guests at a wedding has been limited to 100.
The district administration has permitted the weddings – which will be spread out over the next few days, with November 25, 27 and 30 the busy days – but says it has persuaded people not to hold baarats (a pre-wedding procession in the streets that sees dozens of people congregating).
“We are discouraging people from taking out baraats. But we don’t give permission for each separate function (the baarat is part of several that make up a north Indian wedding),” Iqbal, the additional district collector of Jaipur, says.
Baarats will not be allowed on the road, Health secretary Siddarth Mahajan emphasises, adding that a small procession inside the wedding premises would be permitted.
“Of course we are apprehensive about the spread of coronavirus. A few things have come together that are adding to the Covid surge – cold weather, panchayat elections, pollution, Diwali… and now the huge number of weddings. Therefore we are requesting people to limit numbers,” he says.
The spike in cases in Rajasthan – from under 2,000 cases per day in the first week of November – has coincided with Diwali, as it has in other states, including national capital Delhi.
Health Minister Raghu Sharma tested positive on Monday. He is currently being treated at the Rajasthan University of Health Sciences, a Covid-dedicated facility where the admission numbers make for grim reading.
Around 70 per cent of the hospital’s beds – in the ICU and the general ward – are now taken. That is double the occupancy rate from last month
“We have 700 people in IPD. Last month we had 350, so definitely it has gone up,” Dr Ajit Shekhawat, the Superintendent of the RUHS Covid facility says.
The spike has forced the Ashok Gehlot government to announce a night curfew in eight district headquarters (including Jaipur) from 8 PM to 6 AM. However, and this seems contrary to the aim of the night curfew, those attending marriage functions are exempted.
The state has increased the fine for overcrowding of marriages and other events – from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000. But given Indians (in)famously spend lavish amounts of money on their weddings, it is unclear if this spike will help keep down that of the virus.