The Taj Mahal reopened to tourists Monday as India continued to grapple with alarmingly high numbers of new coronavirus infections, with nearly 87,000 cases reported in the past 24 hours alone, according to the country’s Health Ministry.

India has the second-highest tally of coronavirus cases worldwide, with more than 5.4 million total infections, and may outpace the United States before long. But authorities have resisted a return to lockdown restrictions, fearing the same kind of economic catastrophe that the country experienced in the spring.

The Taj Mahal shut its doors in March and did not reopen until Monday, the longest it has ever remained closed, according to the BBC. As a safety precaution, access to the monument will be limited to 5,000 visitors per day, a sharp decline from the 70,000 or more tourists who often visited in a single day during the pre-pandemic era. Tickets are being sold online only, and visitors are required to have their temperatures taken, wear masks and adhere to social distancing protocols. Selfies are allowed, but group pictures are banned.

Only about 300 tickets to the world-renowned mausoleum were purchased on Monday, according to Reuters. One of the first visitors to show up told reporters she had figured the first few days of reopening would be a safe time to visit, since there would be few crowds at first.

Constructed in the 17th century, the Taj Mahal last closed for a brief period when the region flooded in 1978, according to the BBC. War between India and Pakistan similarly triggered a shutdown of only a few days in 1971.

The Washington Post

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