India has reopened the Taj Mahal after six months with a new Covid-19 restriction site and reduced its capacity from 70,000 to just 5,000 visitors per day
The first visitors came to the famous monument on Monday, although India is set to overtake the US as the world leader in coronavirus infections. Authorities reported 86,961 new coronavirus infections nationwide and there were still no signs of a peak.
The white marble tomb in the city of Agra, built by a 17th-century Mughal emperor for his wife, was opened to the public at sunrise, and a Chinese citizen and a visitor from Delhi were among the first to enter.
Tourists have their picture taken at the Taj Mahal in Agra on September 21. The Taj Mahal reopened to visitors today in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture.
The white marble tomb in the city of Agra, built by a 17th-century Mughal emperor for his wife, was opened to the public at sunrise
Security guards guard the Taj Mahal on Monday. The daily number of visitors was limited to 5,000
Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, up from an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Tickets are only sold online, fewer than 300 are bought on the first day.
Visitors will have their temperatures measured and must follow the advice to keep a safe distance from each other.
Special rules were put in place, including not touching the white marble walls of the mausoleum built for a Mughal emperor's favorite wife.
Visitors can peel their masks off for a photo, but security staff are quick to remind them to put them back on once the shutter button is pressed.
Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000, up from an average of 20,000 before the pandemic. Left Taj Mahal, pictured today, right, full of visitors in January before it had to close
The Taj Mahal is pictured with reduced capacity on the left today and is working with visitors before closing in January on the right
A notice is tied to a railing on the Taj Mahal premises after authorities reopened the memorial to visitors
People are allowed to take selfies or solo photos, but group photos are prohibited.
And the famous bench people usually sit on to have their picture taken has been laminated with plastic to make it easier to clean between photos.
"We have taken all security measures," said Vasant Swarnkar of the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI), which monitors the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Agra, south of New Delhi.
"We want to send the message that things are not that bad and that you will be safe if you follow the directions."
Aditya Diksha, one of the first visitors to the Taj, said he and his friends had driven 12 hours from central India and stopped in Agra on their way to the mountains to the north.
A paramilitary soldier wearing a mask stands guard. Visitors can peel off their masks for a photo, but security guards are quick to remind them to put them back on as soon as the shutter button is pressed
Tourists visit the Taj Mahal in Agra on September 21st. People are allowed to take selfies or solo photos, but group photos are prohibited
A soldier wearing a face mask to prevent the Covon-19 coronavirus guards the Taj Mahal today
"It's the first time we've been on the road in six months, so it feels good," he said.
Workers in the Taj refurbished the handrails while paramilitary police called tourists not to touch any of the surfaces.
"We follow all COVID-19 protocols," said Swarnkar.
India's coronavirus number of 5.49 million infections is the second largest after the US at 6.79 million, a number that the South Asian nation could overtake in the next few weeks at its current rate of increase.
The death toll of 87,882 rose 1,130 from the previous day, figures from the Ministry of Health showed.
But in relation to its population, India's toll is still low compared to countries like the United States, Brazil and the UK.
In the face of its deepest economic decline in decades, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government is pushing to release virus restrictions so jobs and businesses can resume.
"We can survive another four to six months. After that, we have to take some serious phone calls," said Abid Naqvi, who saw bookings at his boutique hotel in Agra zero overnight after India's sudden lockdown in March.
By then, the 13-room Ekaa villa, which opened for nearly $ 1 million last year, was near full capacity.
Tourists take photos when visiting the Taj Mahal in Agra on September 21st. India's coronavirus count of 5.49 million infections ranks second after the United States at 6.79 million
Tourists visit the Taj Mahal in Agra on September 21st. Tourism contributed around $ 240 billion, or 9.2%, to India's gross domestic product in 2018
Tourism contributed around $ 240 billion, or 9.2%, to India's gross domestic product in 2018 and employed more than 42 million people, according to data from the World Travel and Tourism Council.
However, foreign tourists are unlikely to return until at least April, said Manu PV, secretary of the Association of Tourism Trade Organizations India, a month that traditionally signals the end of the tourist season.
And a confusing system of regional lockdown and quarantine rules discourages local tourists.
"People don't want to go on vacation," said Manu. & # 39; You are very concerned. There is the fear factor. & # 39;
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