India pushes back world heritage site reopening citing infection concerns

Source:Reuters Published: 2020/7/6 19:13:40

A replica of the Taj Mahal is seen at a public park in New Delhi, India, on February 4. Photo: Xinhua

India has withdrawn a planned reopening of the Taj Mahal, citing the risk of new coronavirus infections spreading in the northern city of Agra from visitors flocking to see the 17th century monument.

Local authorities issued a new advisory late on Sunday ordering an extension of lockdown curbs on monuments in and around Agra. The government order did not specify the duration of the lockdown for monuments that have been closed since March.

"In the interest of the public, it has been decided that opening monuments in Agra will not be advisable as of now," the district authorities said in a notice published in Hindi.

Agra, one of India's first big clusters of the virus, remains the worst-affected city in Uttar Pradesh, the country's most populous state. It was immediately not clear whether the federal government would scrap its plan to reopen other monuments across the country, such as New Delhi's historic Red Fort.

India's coronavirus infections are rising at the fastest pace in three months.

The Indian government has gradually lifted virus restrictions to help the battered economy, but the number of cases has continued to climb, with 24,000 reported in 24 hours to take the total to nearly 700,000 on Monday. 


But the government has been lifting a vast lockdown of India's 1.3 billion people that has left tens of thousands without work and shuttered businesses. 

While international flights remain suspended, domestic travel has been opened up, and the government is hoping visitors will start to trickle back to some popular destinations.

Containment zones, areas identified as most affected by the virus, remain under strict lockdown, with restricted access and movement of only essential goods and services.

"We don't expect visitors here because clusters around the Taj, including shops and hotels are closed," an official said.
Newspaper headline: Taj Mahal stays closed due to outbreak


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