An Indian couple have been slammed for reportedly chartering a plane to host a mid-air wedding so they could dodge the country’s Covid restrictions.
Footage posted online appears to capture the bride and groom at the front of the packed aircraft as their more than 160 guests watch on.
The newlyweds are not seen wearing masks and only a handful of those in the crowd can be seen covering their face. Social-distancing rules were also not followed.
India is battling soaring Covid infection rates, with the death toll reaching 300,000 on Monday. Some experts believe the number is much higher.
The SpiceJet flight is believed to have taken off from the state of Tamil Nadu, which has placed a 50-person limit on weddings during the pandemic, according to BBC.
The ceremony took place while the plane crossed the Menakshi Amman temple.
Airline staff on board the plane have been removed from duty, an official with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) told the publication.
The DGCA has ordered an investigation into the incident.
“We have de-rostered the crew and directed the airline to lodge a complaint against those not following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour with relevant authorities. We will take strict action,” a DGCI official said, according to The Independent.
A SpiceJet representative said the airline was told the flight had been booked for a “joyride” after a wedding.
They said the client had been briefed about Covid safety guidelines.
Rakesh-Dakshina from Madurai, who rented a plane for two hours and got married in the wedding sky. Family members who flew from Madurai to Bangalore after getting married by SpiceJet flight from Bangalore to Madurai. #COVID19India #lockdown @TV9Telugu #weddingrestrictions pic.twitter.com/9nDyn3MM4n
— DONTHU RAMESH (@DonthuRamesh) May 23, 2021
The newlyweds have faced intense backlash online after the footage of the mid-air ceremony went viral.
“Then you wonder why covid is spreading so much in India. It takes just one of them to have it and spread it to everyone on the plane! Actually hope they get it to teach them a lesson,” one man said on Twitter.
“There is nothing right about this. I hope they are all fined heavily,” a woman said.
“Honeymoon in jail, I hope,” another man said.
"I can't believe how selfish these people are. I feel sorry for the people they will have condemned to die through their actions," a third wrote.
Fungal infection is affecting Covid patients
Slowed vaccine deliveries have marred the country's fight against the pandemic, forcing many to miss their shots, and a rare but fatal fungal infection affecting Covid-19 patients has worried doctors.
India's death toll is the third-highest reported in the world, accounting for 8.6 per cent of the nearly 34.7 million coronavirus fatalities globally.
The health ministry on Monday reported 4,454 new deaths in the past 24 hours, bringing India's total fatalities to 303,720.
It also reported 222,315 new infections, which raised the overall total to nearly 27 million. Both are almost certainly under-counts.
Average daily deaths and cases have slightly decreased in the past few weeks and the government on Sunday said it is conducting the highest number of Covid-19 tests, with more than 2.1 million samples tested in the previous 24 hours.
Megacities such as Mumbai and New Delhi, the worst affected by the latest surge, are also experiencing signs of improvement in recent days.
But the virus isn't finished with India by any means and there are some early indications that it has already taken a ghastly toll in the country's vast rural areas where a majority of the people live and where health care is limited.
In recent weeks, hundreds of bodies have washed up on the banks of the Ganges River in Uttar Pradesh state.
Many others have been found buried in shallow graves along its sandy banks. It has prompted concerns that they're the remains of Covid-19 victims.
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