30 sadhus contract Covid-19 during Kumbh, others call for caution
Kumbh is a four month gathering but the duration of the congregation has been curtailed to one month this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At least 30 sadhus have tested positive for the coronavirus disease and one has died during the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Uttarakhand's Haridwar, adding to fears that one of the world's largest religious gatherings may add to the already spiralling cases of Covid-19, news agency ANI reported on Friday citing a senior medical officer. Kapil Dev, the chief of the Maha Nirvani Akhara, who was in the city to attend the Kumbh Mela from Madhya Pradesh's Chitrakoot, died in a hospital in Dehradun on Wednesday, the agency added.
"Thirty 30 sadhus have tested positive for Covid-19 so far in Haridwar. Medical teams are going to akhadas and RT-PCR tests of sadhus are being done continuously. The process will be further quickened from April 17," Haridwar chief medical officer, Dr SK Jha, was quoted as saying by ANI.
Jha said that people who have contracted the coronavirus disease and are from Haridwar have been sent for home quarantine and those who came from outside are being admitted to hospitals. He also said that the Covid-19 patients who are in serious condition are being referred to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Rishikesh.
More than 1,700 people have tested positive for Covid-19 in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela area from April 10 to 14. Medical workers conducted 236,751 tests over the five-day period in the mela site and 1701 came out positive for the coronavirus disease.
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Meanwhile, the Uttarakhand government imposed night curfew across the state and curbed large gatherings on Thursday but exempted the Kumbh Mela from all restrictions evn though experts have raised concern over the rampant violation of Covid-19 guidelines. The government said in an order that the standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by Centre in January and the state government in February will remain in effect at the Kumbh Mela.
Millions of people have participated in the Kumbh Mela, which began on April 1, so far. The first “shahi snan” or royal bath was held on March 11 on Mahashivratri, the second on April 14 and the third on April 14. The fourth shahi snan is scheduled on April 27. Official said 1.35 million devotees took a dip in the Ganga on the third “shahi snan” on Wednesday 3.1 million people participated in the previous one on April 12.
Panchayati Niranjani Akhada, one of the 13 akhadas, on Thursday announced the conclusion of the Kumbh on April 17. "Given the situation of the pandemic in Haridwar, we have taken the decision to conclude the Kumbh on April 17. Regarding the shahi snan on April 27, we will take steps in accordance with the decision of Akhada Parishad. A bunch of sadhus will participate in the fourth shahi snan from our akhada," Ravindra Puri Maharaj, secretary of the Niranjani Akhada said, according to ANI.
"Overcrowding Haridwar is not appropriate in the present scenario. Many of our staffs and sadhus have fallen ill," Kailash Giri, Acharya Mahamandeleshwar said.
Haridwar is the worst-hit district in the hill state with 19,575 infections after the capital city of Dehradun, which has 37,743 Covid-19 cases. Haridwar recorded 613 cases of the coronavirus disease on Thursday. Kumbh is a four month gathering but the duration of the congregation has been curtailed to one month this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.