Taj Mahal reopens despite rising coronavirus cases in India

The Taj Mahal has reopened its doors to visitors after six months despite the rise of cases in India. It is the longest it has ever been shut.

The historical monument is one of the world's leading tourist attractions, and drew as many as 70,000 people every day before the pandemic.

Officials say that strict social distancing rules will be imposed and daily visitor numbers will be capped at 5,000 -- a quarter the normal rate. Tickets can only be bought online.

Authorities said there will be temperature checks at the entrance, and visitors will be asked to use digital payment methods to buy tickets.

The Taj is surrounded by gardens where visitors spend a lot of time walking around and posing for photographs. However, the mausoleum itself is a closed space, with almost no ventilation, making it vulnerable to Covid-19 transmission.

The 17th-Century marble mausoleum was built by Mughal emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his queen, Mumtaz Mahal.

It was last shut briefly in 1978 when Agra city, where it is located, flooded. And before that, the monument closed for a few days in 1971, during a war between India and Pakistan.

India, which has a population of 1.3 billion people and some of the world's most crowded cities, has recorded more than 5.4 million Covid cases. It also has about 100,000 new infections and over 1,000 deaths are reported daily.

Many experts say that even though India is testing more than a million people per day, this is still not enough and the true number of cases may be much higher than officially reported.

Despite the rise in cases in recent weeks, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is reluctant to mirror some other nations and restrict activity again. This has resulted in the easing of a number of restrictions including on many train routes, domestic flights, markets and restaurants.