Keep festival symbolic, Modi says as cases surge

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to devotees to keep a key Hindu festival symbolic on Saturday

as the country reported more than 200,000 new COVID-19 infections for the third straight day.

Criticism has mounted over the Indian government's handling of the pandemic, as religious festivals and election rallies continue amid increasing reports of a shortage of hospital beds, oxygen and vaccines.

After hundreds of thousands gathered for several days along the banks of the Ganges for a religious festival, Modi on Saturday called for restraint on Twitter.

Experts have warned about the spread of more contagious variants of the disease, especially during large-scale gatherings.

In the capital, the bustling metropolis of New Delhi was quieter than usual on Saturday (April 17)

as it was put under a weekend curfew to help curb a surge in new cases.

The curfew began at 10:00 p.m on Friday (April 16) and will continue until Monday (April 19) morning.

In an effort to stop slowing vaccine rollout, India pledged on Friday to raise monthly production of its own COVID-19 vaccine to nearly 100 million doses by September.

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