Hundreds of 800 Sikh pilgrims who went to Pakistan to celebrate Baisakhi have tested positive for coronavirus on their return, officials have said.
The Sikh devotees of India had gone to Gurdwara Panja Sahib by Lahore on the last day of Baisakhi. Officials said 100 of them tested positive after taking a rapid antigen test. About 350 were tested for COVID-19 using a rapid antigen approach.
Now, some of them who have returned to Amritsar will be tested using the more accurate RT-PCR method, officials said.
The Foreign Ministry has been in contact with the pilgrims to ensure their safety, officials said.
The Pakistan High Commission in Delhi had issued visas to over 1,100 Sikh pilgrims for Baisakhi travel. Under the framework of the Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Destinations 1974, a large number of Indian pilgrims visit Pakistan to go on holiday each year.
Punjab has some 38,000 active COVID-19 cases, according to government data. The state was among the first including Maharashtra and Gujarat that started reporting a surge in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks, before the nationwide crisis in what is now known as a deadly second wave.
More and more people this time are complaining of shortness of breath, needing oxygen support. However, the supply of oxygen has become very limited due to the sharp jump in demand across cities and towns.
People have taken to social media to coordinate aid, while state and center governments are also working to organize oxygen more quickly with the help of the private sector.
Baisakhi is a spring harvest festival for Sikhs and Hindus. It marks the Sikh new year and commemorates the formation of Khalsa panth (saint warriors) under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.