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India gears up to celebrate Independence Day amid pandemic

  • August 15, 2020

Prime Minister Narendra Modi is slated to address the country at the Red Fort in New Delhi as India marks 73 years of Independence.

Celebrations across the country have been marred by the coronavirus pandemic — as India inches towards 2.5 million cases and has the third-highest tally in the world.

Tight restrictions

Only 250 guests will attend the ceremony at the Red Fort and will be seated 2 meters apart from each other. Attendees will also undergo thermal screening before entering the venue.

“We have asked invitees who have experienced any symptoms of COVID-19 over the past two weeks to stay away,” said a spokesman of the Delhi Police.

Kite makers sell kites in the Indian tricolor (picture-alliance/NurPhoto/M. Makhija)

Medical booths and ambulances are stationed at the venue, while police and army personnel participating in the guard of honor event have undergone a mandatory self-quarantine of 14 days.

At a rehearsal for the event on August 13, Indian soldiers held a parade while socially distanced. They also wore face masks that matched the color of their uniforms — khaki, olive green, blue and white to showcase the three components of the Indian military: the army, air force, and navy.

The keynote speech

Indian President Ram Nath Kovind addressed the country a day before the independence day celebrations. In a televised speech, the president acknowledged the contribution of healthcare workers during the fight against the coronavirus.

Kovind also paid tribute to the 20 soldiers killed in the June clashes with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley. He accused China of carrying out its “expansionist” activities “cleverly”, without revealing further details.

In his keynote speech, Modi is expected to highlight the government’s achievements, which include revoking Article 370, which granted special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir. He is also expected to unveil a $1.3 trillion plan to boost infrastructure.

am/stb (dpa, Reuters)

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