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Amid a huge number of people testing positive from the Kumbh Mela area in Haridwar, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday morning urged that the weeks-long religious festival "should now only be symbolic" amid an unprecedented surge in Covid-19 cases.

PM Modi stressed that this will give a boost to India's fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. The Prime Minister's appeal comes in the wake of nearly 2,000 devotees testing positive for Covid-19 at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar in around a week's time.

Taking to Twitter, PM Modi said that he spoke to top seer - Hindu Dharma Acharya Sabha president Swami Avdheshanand Giri Ji Maharaj - over the phone and made an appeal about the annual gathering that attracts tens of thousands of devotees every year.

"Spoke to Acharya Swami Avdheshanand Giri ji on the phone today. Enquired about the health of all saints. All the saints are providing support to the administration for a smooth conduct of the affair and I thanked them for it," the PM tweeted in Hindi.

In another tweet, PM Modi said, "Now that two royal baths have taken place, I appeal to everyone to keep Kumbh Mela symbolic due to the coronavirus crisis. This will give strength to India's fight against the virus."

After PM Modi's appeal, Swami Avdheshanand urged people to not come to Kumbh for bathing in large numbers and follow rules.

"We respect Prime Minister's appeal. I request the people to not come for snan in large numbers, in the wake of COVID19 situation, and follow all rules," he wrote on Twitter.

Top seer at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar dies of Covid-19

A Hindu seer has died from Covid-19 and 80 other holy men have tested positive for the deadly virus after attending Kumbh where millions of pilgrims have been ignoring the norms despite a surge in cases.

Many seers have tested positive after the commencement of Kumbh Mela, including Akhil Bharatiya Akhada Parishad president Mahant Narendra Giri, who is admitted at the All India Institute Of Medical Sciences in Rishikesh.

Mahamandaleshwar of Maha Nirwani Akhada from Madhya Pradesh Swami Kapil Dev, who had tested positive for Covid-19, died at a hospital four days ago.

Haridwar Kumbh Mela medical office has said that 68 seers have tested positive for Covid-19 between 5 to 14 April.

Over the past few days, as many as 2167 people were found positive for coronavirus in Haridwar -- the place where the month-long Kumbh is going on.

According to the Uttarakhand State Control Room, there were 254 Covid-19 positive cases on 10 April, 386 on 11 April, 408 on 12 April, 594 on 13 April and 525 on 14 April.

The ongoing Kumbh Mela has been shortened this year to just one month from 1 to 30 April due to the pandemic.

In normal circumstances, the event, which comes once in 12 years, is held for nearly four months from mid-January to April.

Meanwhile, India's Covid-19 caseload surged to 1.45 crore cases with 2,34,692 new cases - the sharpest-ever single-day spike. Around 1,341 deaths were reported in a day as the country saw the deadliest day of the pandemic this year.

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