Taj Mahal reopens even as India coronavirus cases soar

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India’s famed Taj Mahal and some schools reopened on Monday as authorities pressed ahead with kickstarting the nation’s coronavirus-battered economy despite soaring infection numbers.

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, second only to the United States which it could overtake soon.

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.

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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 jaw-dropping white-marble mausoleum in Agra south of New Delhi is India’s most popular tourist site. It usually draws seven million visitors a year, but has been closed since March.

Officials said strict social distancing rules were in place and visitors were not allowed to touch the marble. The famous bench where visitors sit for a photo — most memorably Princess Diana in 1992 — has been specially laminated so that it can be regularly sanitised without damage.

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Early on Monday a couple of hundred of visitors were inside. Security personnel were reminding everyone to wear masks once photos have been clicked. Daily visitor numbers have been capped at 5,000 — a quarter the normal rate.

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