'Negative RT-PCR report, registration mandatory': Centre's SOP on Mahakumbh
- The SOP was issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on January 22 but was made public on Sunday.
The Central government, through a standard operating procedure (SOP) for the Mahakumbh fair in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, said that negative Covid-19 RT-PCR report will be mandatory along with registration for all pilgrims who wish to attend the fair scheduled from February 27.
The SOP was issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on January 22 but was made public on Sunday. The guidelines state, “The Government of Uttarakhand would widely publicise, as also convey to all other state governments, that devotees with negative RT-PCR test report (test done 72 hours prior to the date of visit) shall only be allowed to enter the Kumbh mela site. The devotees may carry such test reports either on their mobile phones or in hard copies.”
It further mentions that all devotees who are desirous of attending the Kumbh mela shall register with the Government of Uttarakhand and obtain a compulsory medical certificate from the nearest community health centre/district hospital/medical college in their state.
The Centre further asked the state government to ensure that the healthcare workers and the other frontline workers “engaged during Kumbh mela medical and public health operations are vaccinated on priority in the ongoing vaccination of this group. Only vaccinated healthcare and other frontline workers be deputed for Kumbh mela duties.”
As around 10 lakh people are expected to attend the mela on a regular day and about 50 lakh on the auspicious days, the Centre has asked the state government to increase bed capacity across state hospitals.
This year, the Kumbh mela would be held in Haridwar. There are six auspicious days - Magh Purnima (27th February 2021), Mahashivratri (11th March 2021), Somvati Amavasya (12th April 2021), Baisakhi (14th April 2021), Ram Navmi (21st April 2021), and Chaitra Purnima (27th April 2021). These days are expected to witness a surge in crowds, congregating at Har Ki Pauri Ghat, for the holy dip.
The guidelines mention, “The existing bed capacity of government, referral and private hospitals, all combined, is about 2,800 in Haridwar, Rishikesh and Dehradun. This needs to be substantially augmented. The expected surge of the floating population and the potential outbreak of Covid-19 or other epidemic-prone diseases will overwhelm the existing facilities.”
The Centre asked the state government to establish “mega-size temporary hospitals (1000 beds) that would augment bed capacity by at least 2,000 beds...” Testing facilities will also be increased with setting up of mobile testing facilities, including container-based RT-PCR mobile labs within the Mela site and/or at temporary hospitals that would be established.
The Central government has said that Uttarakhand government shall widely circulate a statement to all the states well in advance, clearly specifying that vulnerable population (ageing over 65 years, pregnant women, children below the age of 10 years, those with underlying comorbid conditions) shall be discouraged to attend the Kumbh mela.
The SOP further emphasises on following Covid-19 appropriate behaviour of wearing face masks and a strict adherence of six feet social distancing norm. The state government has been asked to keep a provision of distributing free masks and establishing contactless hand washing and sanitising stations.