(Photo by DIBYANGSHU SARKAR/AFP via Getty Images)

The Indian state of West Bengal reported its biggest daily tally of new COVID-19 infections as thousands of people thronged the streets for a major Hindu festival that began last week.

India has seen a sharp drop in infections since a September peak, but experts have warned it could see a resurgence during Durga Puja this week, and Diwali, the festival of light, in mid-November.

West Bengal’s health ministry reported 4,069 new COVID-19 cases late on Wednesday. India currently has a total of 7.71 million cases, the second highest in the world.

During the nine-day festival of Durga Puja, Hindus worship the Goddess Durga and visit a series of neighbourhoods to see large idols put up in big tents and other makeshift structures.

The High Court in West Bengal, a state in eastern India, has issued orders to restrict the entry of worshippers into tents and makeshift structures, but that has not deterred people from turning out in large numbers.

The next four days of the festival will be crucial, health officials said.

“Many people were behaving irrationally and crowding markets, said Abhijit Chowdhury, a doctor who advises the state government. “Some of them were not even taking basic safety measures.”

Separately, the federal government on Thursday said it would relax some visa and travel restrictions for those who want to travel to India for medical, business and employment purposes.

(Reuters)