A planned re-opening of the Taj Mahal has been withdrawn, citing the risk of new coronavirus infections that have sprung up in Agra, supposedly from visitors flocking to see one of the 7 wonders of the world.
On Sunday, local authorities issued a new advisory ordering an extension of lockdown curbs on monuments in and around Agra. The government order did not specify the duration of the lockdown for these monuments that have now been closed for over 4 months.
“In the interest of the public, it has been decided that opening monuments in Agra will not be advisable as of now”, the district authorities said in a notice published in Hindi.
Agra, one of India’s first big clusters of the virus with a total of over 1300 reported cases, remains the worst-affected city in the country’s most populous state, Uttar Pradesh.
“We don’t expect visitors here because clusters around the Taj, including shops and hotels are closed,” a local district administration official has said in Agra.
It was highly debated whether the government would scrap its plan to re-open other monuments across the country, such as New Delhi’s historic Red Fort & Qutub Minar.
India has been struggling with COVID-19 for more than 3 months now. After several lockdowns & unlock phases, cases are still on the surge with highest daily spikes still being recorded frequently. On Sunday, the health ministry reported a record single-day spike of 24,850 new cases which pushed India’s overall tally to over 6.9 lakh cases, making it the 3rd worst affected country in the world, after U.S.A & Brazil.
The government has been gradually lifting the strict lockdown that was imposed on India’s 1.3 billion people for 3 months. The unlock process, despite cases rising rapidly, has left the population with a sense of confusion & helplessness.
While international flights remain suspended, domestic travel has been opened up, and the government is hoping visitors will start to trickle back to some of the popular destinations.