Indian village prays to 'goddess corona' to rid them of the virus

A devotee cheers while standing near an idol of 'Corona Mata' (Mother Corona), amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, at a temple in Pratapgarh, Uttar Pradesh, India June 11, 2021, in this still image taken from video. ANI/REUTERS TV/VIA REUTERS

LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Indian villagers have erected a shrine to "goddess corona" and are offering her prayers in the hope that divine intervention can banish the deadly virus.

Devotees in Shuklapur village, in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh, have been offering prayers, holy water, and flowers at the bright yellow shrine where they have placed their idol of "Corona Mata", since they erected it this week.

"Maybe with her blessings the villagers, our village, and everyone else get some relief," one villager, who gave her name as Sangeeta, said on Friday.

India was hit hard by a surge of coronavirus infections in April and May but there are signs the worst could be over.

Authorities reported 84,332 new cases on Saturday, the lowest daily tally in more than two months, health ministry data showed. COVID-19 has killed 367,081 people in India, according to government data.

The Shuklapur villagers' prayers have not been fully answered - there are sill some cases in the district - but the numbers are also sharply lower than they were at the height of the pandemic.

(Reporting by Saurabh Sharma in Lucknow; Writing by Alasdair Pal; Ediitng by Robert Birsel)

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