India closes Taj Mahal to visitors over coronavirus fears

Agence France-Presse
India closes Taj Mahal to visitors over coronavirus fears
India's Tourism Minister shuts down all ticketed monuments and museums until March 31, as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic

NEW DELHI, India – India will close the iconic Taj Mahal to visitors from Tuesday, March 17 as part of measures to try and combat the coronavirus pandemic, the tourism ministry said on Monday, March 16.

Most schools and entertainment facilities, including cinemas, have already been closed across India, the world’s second-most populous country with 1.3 billion people.

The South Asian nation has reported 114 positive cases and two deaths from the virus.

Worldwide, the number of deaths has passed 6,500 with more than 168,000 infections in 142 countries and territories.

“All ticketed monuments and all other museums have been directed to be closed until March 31,” Tourism Minister Prahlad Patel tweeted late Monday.

The UN cultural agency UNESCO calls the white marble Taj the “jewel of Muslim art”. US President Donald Trump and his wife Melania visited the site last month during his official visit to India.

India has also suspended all incoming tourists, and will bar passengers of flights from the European Union, the European Free Trade Association, Turkey and the United Kingdom from Wednesday, March 18.

Travelers coming from or transiting through the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait are required to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they arrive in India, the government announced late Monday.

Arrivals from China, Italy, Iran, South Korea, France, Spain, and Germany are already subject to similar restrictions, while most border points with neighboring Bangladesh and Myanmar have been shut.

The closure of the Taj came as the central bank, after an emergency meeting, said Monday it would boost cash injections into financial markets by one trillion rupees ($13.5 billion) to address the economic impact of the pandemic.

The Reserve Bank of India also announced another round of foreign-currency swap to inject $2 billion into the market to stabilize the rupee, which fell to record lows last week. – Rappler.com

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