In view of the rising Covid cases in the country, the Union Culture Ministry has decided to shut down the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, Fatehpur Sikri, and other Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) protected monuments with immediate effect.
The news of the Taj Mahal's closure has disappointed the tourists who had arrived in Agra to view the world-famous monument.
Earlier, the Taj Mahal had remained closed for 188 days during the first wave of the pandemic and in the second wave too. The tentative reopening date of the monument is 15th May, but if the case count continues to increase in the country, the authorities may move up the date.
Talking to India Today, Agra Tourist Welfare Chamber secretary Vishal Sharma said that the monument's closure was being anticipated for the past few days, after the number of tourists arriving at the Taj Mahal had dropped by almost 75 percent, from 13-15 thousand per day, to barely 3-4 thousand this week.
Following the announcement on Wednesday of night curfew in Agra, the number of tourists had gone down to 2,706.
Vishal Sharma said that the Taj Mahal's closure last year from 17th March to 21st September had dealt a huge blow to the tourism industry of Agra and it was just slowly getting back on its feet. Sharma added that this time a lot of tourism-related businesses in Agra could be forced to shut down for good.
Vishal Sharma pointed out that a lot of tourism businesses, especially handicraft emporiums and travel agencies are facing tough times, having been forced to remain closed for over one year. With the second wave of Covid-19 gaining momentum, many businesses may have to finally let go of their staff, which they had been retaining in the hopes of revival of business this year.