On a day when Andhra Pradesh recorded over 4,000 Covid-19 cases in the last 48 hours, dramatic visuals came to light from Kurnool where thousands of people took to streets to celebrate Ugadi (Telugu New Year), in blatant violation of Covid-19 guidelines.
In the videos that have now gone viral on social media, nearly 4,000 people from Kurnool’s Kairuppala village divided themselves into two groups and hurled cow dung cakes at each other. This happened a day after Ugadi, during a religious procession of the local deity, Lord Veerabhadra Swamy. According to local folklore, the cow dung throwing ritual known as ‘Pidakalam Samaram’ is carried out to bring in peace and harmony between different communities.
As people jostled for space amid loud festive cheers, not a single person in the crowd was seen wearing a mask, let alone follow social distancing norms. Questions are now being raised over the glaring lapses of district officials and police personnel in enforcing Covid appropriate behaviour.
“This happens every year, every single village has a unique way of celebrating Ugadi,” Kurnool SP K Fakirappa told News18. It may be recalled that in the wake of the deadly second wave, the State government led by Chief Minister Jagan Mohan Reddy has barred mass gatherings and made it mandatory for people to wear masks.
In its defence, the Kurnool Police has claimed that prior notices were issued to all the organisers to follow prescribed Covid-19 norms, but the situation went out of control as people from different places came in droves to take part in the religious festival.
"Before the event, we had issued a notice to all organisers to follow all prescribed Covid-19 norms, but there were clear violations on the ground. We are looking into the matter and action will be taken soon," said a police official.
In a matter of 24 hours, Kurnool reported a sharp spike of Covid cases registering 386 fresh infections as against 88 cases recorded on Tuesday.
As the second wave of the pandemic continues to wreak havoc across the country, Covid-19 cases in Andhra Pradesh have also been rising at an alarming rate. In the last 24 hours, 18 deaths were recorded, the highest number of fatalities since October. In addition to that, the State reported over 4,000 cases for the second consecutive day, taking the overall Covid-19 tally to 9.37 lakh. Going by the trend, 70% of the cases are being reported from five districts, Chittoor, Krishna, East Godavari, Guntur, and Srikakulam.