Kumbh braces for crowds amid Covid-19 surge
Despite a raging pandemic, authorities in Haridwar are bracing for an influx of devotees to the Mahakumbh -- considered to be the largest religious congregation world over -- to participate in the Shahi Snan on April 12, officials said.
Kumbh Mela officer-in-charge Deepak Rawat held a meeting on Wednesday, directing government officials to ensure all Covid-appropriate behaviour and protocols are followed during the shahi snan (holy dip in Ganga river).
“As far as facilities are concerned for the pilgrims they are at par with any other fair. Owing to Covid-19 pandemic, strict implementation of Covid-19 norms is being ensured for the Kumbh. RT-PCR negative report is mandatory for all outside people entering the Kumbh Mela zone and strict checking is being done at border check post,” said Rawat.
The month-long Mahakumbh began in Haridwar on April 1 amid strict Covid-19 restrictions, with chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat -- who was diagnosed with Covid-19 later -- assuring devotees that none would be “unnecessarily harassed in the name of Covid-19 restrictions”.
The festival is being held despite concerns raised by experts that the month-long event, which is expected to be attended by 30-50 million people, could become a Covid-19 hotspot. The state only made a negative RT-PCR test mandatory for all those entering the state after the Uttarakhand high court stepped in.
“We always make arrangements for the Kumbh in accordance with the largest estimated turnouts. So, we are well prepared to tackle any situation,” Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal said. “But with the second wave of coronavirus infection getting stronger and the SOPs in force, we don’t expect huge crowds on the ghats on the Shahi Snan days,” Gunjyal told PTI.
The ritual of shahi snan will be held on April 12, 13, 14, 21 and 27.
Uttarakhand on Wednesday recorded 1,109 new Covid-19 cases, the state’s highest in 185 days.