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Politics

Modi Urges Virus Precautions Ahead of India’s Festival Season

Devotees light lamps on the banks of the River Sarayu on the eve of Diwali, in Ayodhya, India, in Oct. 2019.

Devotees light lamps on the banks of the River Sarayu on the eve of Diwali, in Ayodhya, India, in Oct. 2019.

Photographer: Sanjay Kanojia/AFP via Getty Images

Prime Minister Narendra Modi said his government will ensure that all 1.3 billion Indian have access to a Covid-19 vaccine as soon it is ready and asked citizens to exercise caution ahead of the country’s traditional festival season to check a spike in infection in the world’s second-worst affected nation.

“We have covered a long distance in the fight against the pandemic. Economic activities are gathering pace with time,” he said in an address to the nation on Tuesday. “This is not the time to get careless.”

Starting this weekend, Indians will be celebrating several festivals including Dussehra, Diwali and Christmas that could potentially lead to a sharp jump in the country’s daily virus infections. India’s total cases currently stand at over 7.5 million, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

“The government is also working on preparations to distribute the vaccine to every citizen when that stage comes,” Modi added in his televised speech, adding that the government “is working at a rapid pace to ensure the vaccine reaches each and every individual.”

Modi’s message comes at a time when leaders in Europe are reviving local area lockdowns to slow renewed infection surges, an option India cannot exercise widely because of the hit its economy has already taken from its earlier strict lockdown. The steady rise in cases is making it harder to revive an economy that shrank 24% in the quarter ended June.

— With assistance by Bibhudatta Pradhan