A hundred Sikh pilgrims under 800 who went to Pakistan to celebrate Baisakhi have tested positive for coronavirus on their return.
The Sikh followers from India had gone from Baisakhi to Lahores Gurdwara Panja Sahib on the last day. Officials said 100 of them tested positive after taking a rapid antigen test. About 350 were tested for COVID-19 using the rapid antigen method.
Now some of them who have returned to Amritsar are being tested using the more accurate RT-PCR method, officials have said.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has contacted the pilgrims to ensure their safety.
The Pakistani High Commission in Delhi had issued visas for Baisakhi trips to over 1,100 Sikh pilgrims. As part of the 1974 Pakistan-India Protocol on Visits to Religious Shrines, numerous pilgrims from India visit Pakistan each year to attend festivals.
Punjab has around 38,000 active COVID-19 cases, according to government data. The state was among the first, including Maharashtra and Gujarat, to report spikes in COVID-19 cases in recent weeks before the crisis erupted nationwide in what is known as a more deadly second wave.
This time, more and more people are complaining of shortness of breath that requires oxygen assistance. However, the supply of oxygen is severely limited due to the sudden surge in demand between cities and municipalities.
People have taken to social media to coordinate aid while state governments and the center, with the help of the private sector, work to organize oxygen faster.
Baisakhi is a spring harvest festival for Sikhs and Hindus. It marks the Sikh New Year and commemorates the founding of Khalsa panth (Holy Warriors) under Guru Gobind Singh in 1699.