Guwahati: Amid India's ongoing battle with soaring COVID-19 infections, the Taj Mahal, the top tourist attraction in the Indian subcontinent, is set to reopen more than six months after it was shut down after the virus landed on our shores.
This decision has been taken when India, home to 1.3 million people, on Monday overtook Brazil to become the world's second most-infected nation with more than 4.2 million cases. The vast country is now behind only the United States.
Northern Uttar Pradesh state's Tourism Department deputy director Amit Srivastava, confirming this development to media, said that the Taj Mahal will reopen on September 21 and all the COVID-19 protocols like social distancing and mask-wearing will be followed. The same has been corroborated by Agra district magistrate Prabhu N Singh via a Twitter post.
Srivastava has also confirmed that the number of visitors will be limited to 5,000 a day -- down from the usual daily average of 20,000. Similarly, the Agra Fort will be open for tourists from September 21, and 2,500 tourists will be allowed every day.
While the Taj Mahal has around 7 million visitors each year with a large number of foreign tourists, the Agra Fort, another hugely popular destination, has nearly 3 million visitors a year.
The Taj Mahal, which is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, has been closed since mid-March as part of India's strict virus lockdown that kept 1.3 billion Indians indoors.
Uttar Pradesh, where the Taj is located, is one of the worst-hit states in India with more than 270,000 virus cases recorded so far.
In spite of the boom in cases, however, India has gone ahead with its "unlock" strategy in its bid to revive the faltering economy that has been badly hit by the outbreak.
India has pushed ahead with reopening to boost its virus-battered economy even as infections have steadily increased.
Since August, India has been reporting the highest single-day rises in the world.
India on Wednesday recorded 89,706 new cases of the coronavirus disease in the last 24 hours, pushing the nationwide tally to 43,70,129, according to the Union health ministry.
The number of fatalities rose by 1,115, according to the health ministry data, to reach 73,890.
The number of active cases went up further, with 13,697 recorded in the last 24 hours. The total number of active cases stands at 8,97,394.