Despite HC order of 50k daily Covid-19 tests, Haridwar conducted over 21k since April 1
Despite Uttarakhand High Court’s order of 50,000 daily testings for Covid-19, Haridwar reported around 21,000 daily tests on an average since April 1 when the Mahakumbh mela started. The mega religious congregation will end on April 30.
Between April 1 and April 18, a total of 3,77,555 Covid-19 tests were conducted in Uttarakhand which totals to around 20,975 tests per day on an average since the mega fair commenced earlier this year.
Anoop Nautiyal, founder of Dehradun-based think tank Social Development for Communities, who has been analysing the Covid-19 pandemic, said the testing numbers in Haridwar need to be scaled up to around 50,000 as per the HC’s directions. “Haridwar has witnessed pilgrim influx in millions, including 1.3 million on Shahi Snan on April 14, at a time when the whole country is witnessing a huge surge in Covid cases. The best strategy to deal with Mahakumbh not emerging as a super-spreader is to increase the testing which is not being done. In the past 18 days, the average daily testing has been around 21,000, which is clearly not enough for a sensitive area like Mahakumbh,” he said.
A day ahead of Mahakumbh, on March 31, the Uttarakhand High Court directed the state government to increase the daily Covid-19 testing from daily 5,000 to 50,000 in Haridwar to check the spread of the virus in Mahakumbh, the biggest religious congregation on the planet. The HC gave directions while hearing a bunch of PILs filed related to various issues regarding the fight against the pandemic in the state.
Also, between April 1 and April 18, the number of cases in Haridwar jumped from 1,522 to 21303, while the active cases in the same period surged from 149 to 4,893. While 149 cases were reported on April 1, the number of cases reported on April 18 was 572. For the last few days, Dehradun and Haridwar are witnessing a major spike in daily cases. Between April 1 and April 18, the Haridwar district reported an increase of 19,781 cases.
With Haridwar and Dehradun emerging as Covid-19 hotspots in the state, some Akhada saints have opted for symbolic bathing rituals for the rest of the Mahakumbh period and many are already leaving the Kumbh area. According to Mahant Devendra Shastri, secretary of Shri Nirmal Panchayati Akhada, around six hundred seers have left Kumbh city after the third Shahi Snan on April 14 and many will leave in the coming days.
Of the 2,630 fresh cases reported by the state on Sunday, 1,281 were from Dehradun and 572 from Haridwar district. Dehradun district has reported a maximum of 41,254 Covid-19 positive cases so far followed by Haridwar (21303).
Given the surge in cases, night curfew and Sunday curfew have also been imposed in Haridwar district from April 17 with district administration making it clear that curfew restrictions will be waived on festive days and Shahi Snan of April 27 in Haridwar Kumbh Mela area.
On March 5, the HC constituted a committee with the mandate to inspect the preparations and status of various arrangements and infrastructural works in Mahakumbh on March 14 and submit their reports with photographic evidence. The team included district judge Haridwar, Mela Adhikari, petitioner’s counsel Shiv Bhatt and chief standing counsel.
On March 24, the HC directed the state government to ensure that pilgrims coming for Mahakumbh carry negative RT-PCR test not more than 72 hours old. The development followed members of the court-appointed committee to check the situation in Mahakumbh and submit their reports.