In a bid to avoid overcrowding and ensure social distancing amid raging coronavirus pandemic, the central government made a number of changes in Republic Day parade in 2021.

For the first time in the history of R-Day, the parade will not culminate at the Red Fort. It will start from Vijay Chowk and end at the National Stadium. The distance of the parade has been cut down to half — from an earlier 8.2 kilometres to 3.3 kilometres now.

As part of the new protocols, all marching contingents and participants will have to wear face masks and the contingents will be smaller this time. Instead of 144 members, each will have 96 participants.

The spectator strength has also been brought down from 1,15,000 to 25,000 and children below the age of 15 will not be allowed entry. The number of cultural programmes has also been cut down.

The new set of rules come as India struggles to contain the coronavirus pandemic. Around 150 army jawans who had recently travelled to Delhi to take part in Republic Day parade have tested positive for Covid-19. All of them have been quarantined at the Delhi Cantonment.

India has invited UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson as the chief guest. The Ministry of External Affairs last week clarified that the British PM will be part of the Republic Day celebrations despite the scare of the new virus strain in his country.

India has reported 16,432 new Covid-19 cases, 24,900 recoveries, and 252 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the health ministry said in a statement.