Coronavirus fears dampen Holi celebrations

Reuters NEW DELHI | Updated on March 10, 2020

Sand artist Manas Sahoo creates a sand sculpture with a massage 'Avoid Color Avoid Corona' during Holi celebration, at a beach, in Puri.   -  PTI

The festival of colours, Holi, was subdued on Tuesday with fears of the coronavirus putting a damper on the usually boisterous celebration marked by the throwing of coloured powder and dousing with dyed water.

The two-day spring festival is an explosion of colour, with people smearing each other's faces with colour green, yellow and red powders. But the coronavirus, which has infected nearly 40 people in India, looks set to spoil the fun this year.

“Avoid participating in large gatherings,” the Ministry of Health said in notice warning of the danger of the virus, while wishing everyone a “Happy and Safe Holi”. Prime Minister Narendra Modi has said he would not celebrate Holi this year.

Shopkeepers said rumours that the coloured powders and dyes revellers used in the festival were imported from China had hurt their sales. The coronavirus originated in China late last year.

“Customers are down by at least 50 to 60 per cent,” said Suresh Singh, a shopkeeper in Lucknow, who sells the powders and dyes. “Usually at this time of year the market is very crowded but now it's quiet,” Singh said. “I'm not even selling colours from China ... they're from Delhi.”

In a suburb of Mumbai, people put up a giant effigy of the coronavirus and set it ablaze. Women sang songs to banish the virus, telling it to “go away”, videos shared on social media showed.

Published on March 10, 2020

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