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Omicron casts shadow over Christmas celebrations in India

In national capital New Delhi, authorities have banned large gatherings and congregations

Omicron casts shadow over Christmas celebrations in India

Medical staff prepare an isolation ward for coronavirus patients at a government hospital in Chennai in the southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu on Dec. 16. (Photo: Arun Sankar/AFP)

Published: December 23, 2021 05:16 AM GMT

Updated: December 23, 2021 05:26 AM GMT

The highly infectious Omicron is likely to cast its long shadow over Christmas religious celebrations in India, which reported 231 cases of the variant on Dec. 22.

The Delhi Disaster Management Authority (DDMA) has ordered a ban on all cultural events and gatherings for Christmas and New Year celebrations in the national capital in view of the rising cases of Omicron.

In its order, the DDMA asked all district and police officials to ensure that no cultural events and congregations take place during Christmas and New Year, meaning that Christmas church services are under threat.

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The federal government was on alert with Prime Minister Narendra Modi convening a high-level meeting to review the Covid-19 situation on Dec. 23 even as federal health authorities issued fresh guidelines to all states across the country.

The guidelines warned that Omicron was “at least three times more transmissible than the Delta variant" and prescribed “greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision-making, strict and prompt containment action” at the local and district levels.

The United Christian Forum (UCF) said the Delhi government should reconsider the decision.

We would like to request the Delhi government and the DDMA to reconsider their decision, otherwise we will have no choice but to go to court and seek justice

"Since the time the DDMA issued this order yesterday evening, I have been receiving calls from concerned Christians who want to visit church to pray and celebrate Christmas. I fail to understand the reason for specifically prohibiting gatherings or congregations for Christmas," A.C. Michael of UCF told UCA News.

"If restaurants, bars and weddings can take place with a limited number of people, they can easily allow the faithful to congregate for services in churches. In any case, services are already taking place in groups of 50 people by following laid-down Covid-19 protocols.

“We would like to request the Delhi government and the DDMA to reconsider their decision, otherwise we will have no choice but to go to court and seek justice."

Among the states, Delhi and Maharashtra have recorded 57 and 54 cases respectively of the Omicron variant, officials said.

According to the latest data available on Dec. 22, India recorded 6,317 new cases of Covid-19 and 318 deaths during the previous two days. The country’s active caseload stood at 78,190, the lowest in 575 days.

However, officials said it reminded them of the devastating second wave of Covid19 in March-April that left the country reeling. The federal government has asked states to impose night curfew and strictly regulate large gatherings to avoid a similar situation.

Health authorities also exhorted district officials to curtail numbers in marriages and funerals, and restrict the attendance in offices, industries and passengers in public transport wherever and whenever required.

The federal government has directed state governments to be vigilant and take pre-emptive action in case of the test positivity rate exceeding 10 percent in a week and bed occupancy crossing 40 percent or more on oxygen-supported or intensive care units.

In the national capital, the DDMA launched concerted action to "Test, Track and Treat" those infected besides activating measures like enforcement of Covid appropriate behavior and containment zones wherever necessary.

The state’s capital, Mumbai, reported 490 new coronavirus positive cases on Dec. 22, a jump of more than 160 from the previous day

Maharashtra, which had reopened schools and colleges earlier this month after a long gap due to the second wave of Covid, is likely to close them again. “If Omicron cases continue to rise, we may take a call to shut the schools again. We are monitoring the situation,” the state’s Education Minister Varsha Gaikwad told news agency ANI.

The state’s capital, Mumbai, reported 490 new coronavirus positive cases on Dec. 22, a jump of more than 160 from the previous day.

The neighboring state of Karnataka in the south has directed district health and police officials to up the surveillance to detect Omicron cases.

Telangana state reported substantial transmission of the Omicron variant with 24 cases, followed by 24 cases in Kerala, 19 in Karnataka, 18 in Rajasthan, and 14 in Gujarat. Several other states in the country reported cases in the single digits.

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