The Taj Mahal reopens to visitors on Monday (Sep 21) in a symbolic business-as-usual gesture, even as India looks set to overtake the US as the global leader in coronavirus infections.

India, home to 1.3 billion people and some of the world’s most crowded cities, has recorded more than 5.4 million COVID-19 cases. Around 100,000 new infections and over 1,000 deaths are reported daily.

But after a strict lockdown in March that devastated the livelihoods of tens of millions of people, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reluctant to copy some other nations and tighten the screw on activity again.

Instead in recent months his government has eased more and more restrictions including on many train routes, domestic flights, markets, restaurants – and now, visiting the Taj Mahal.

The world-famous white marble mausoleum in the city of Agra south of New Delhi is India’s most popular tourist site. It usually draws 7 million visitors a year, but has been closed since March.

Officials say that when it reopens, strict social distancing rules will be imposed and daily visitor numbers will be capped at 5,000 – a quarter the normal rate. Tickets can only be bought online.

“Circles are being marked, the mask would be a must and nobody would be able to enter without thermal screening,” Vasant Swarnkar, a senior archaeologist in charge of Agra’s monuments, told reporters.

Read more: CNA

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