Covid-19 fears may cast shadow as second priest tests positive
Satyendra Das, head priest of the existing makeshift Ram temple in Ayodhya, confirmed to HT that Prem Kumar Tiwari, part of the team that conducts the daily rituals at the Ram Janmabhoomi site, had tested positive for Covid.Updated: Aug 04, 2020 01:56 IST
The coronavirus disease threatened to cast a shadow on the Ram temple foundation ceremony on Monday with a second priest testing positive for the infection and the administration expressing concern that local residents were flouting social distancing guidelines.
Satyendra Das, head priest of the existing makeshift Ram temple in Ayodhya, confirmed to HT that Prem Kumar Tiwari, part of the team that conducts the daily rituals at the Ram Janmabhoomi site, had tested positive for Covid.
“Of course it is worrying. We all stay in the same area in the temple. I also have some other conditions and I’m not a young man,’’ said the 82-year-old.
Last week, another junior priest called Pradeep Das from the same team tested positive for the infection and all those in contact with him were quarantined. Four other officials at the site also tested positive.
But senior district officials played down the priest’s infection. “We have tested a large number of people and we are taking all precautions. I don’t think this event has any risks at all,’’ said a top state government official on condition of anonymity.
“We had all the major festivals- Ram Navami in April, we’ve celebrated Eid, so why should we not be able to celebrate this,’’ said Prakash Sharma, a senior official at the Ram Mandir Teerth Kshetra Trust.
Coronavirus fears may also keep a key guest, Uttar Pradesh Sunni Central Waqf Board chairman Zafar Ahmad Faruqi away.
“Yes, the chairman has got an invite. However, he returned from Ayodhya yesterday where the land papers were handed over and since then he hasn’t been feeling well. It’s not corona likely as he had surgery but he won’t be travelling, ‘’ said Athar Hussain, Faruqi’s spokesperson.
The state government has appealed to people to not travel to Ayodhya and instructed local officials to seal district borders from Monday night. Still, there is concern that distancing protocols are not being followed by local residents in a city with 604 active cases and 16 deaths.
A letter issued by district magistrate Anuj Jha expressed concern that many people thronging the Ram Ki Paidi ghat on the banks of the Saryu river didn’t wear masks and jostled with each other.
To combat this, the DM ordered that from 2pm Tuesday, the entire area would be shut down for the public and only those accredited to be present in the area would be allowed in. The DM said this action was necessary so that no unnecessary crowd gathered in the area.