On Sunday, the Uttarakhand government decided to open the Char Dham yatra to the four famous shrines nestled in the Himalaya mountains for locals from 1 July and for people from the rest of the state from 11 July.
The yatra, originally scheduled to commence on 14 May, was postponed in view of the massive surge in COVID-19 cases in India.
How it'll work
The people of Chamoli district can visit Badrinath and those of Rudraprayag and Uttarkashi districts can go to Kedarnath, Gangotri, and Yamunotri from 1 July.
The people in the rest of the state can visit from 11 July.
Bringing a negative RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen test report, however, will be compulsory for the pilgrims.
Bringing a negative RT-PCR or Rapid Antigen test report will be compulsory also for people coming to the state from outside or those going to hill areas from the plains.
Uttarakhand extends curfew but relaxes restrictions
The decision to extend the Uttarakhand curfew from June 22 to 29 with some important relaxations was taken at a meeting chaired by Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat.
This, as the state government decided to extend the lockdown in the state for another week from 22 June but allowed hotels, restaurants and bars to open with 50 percent of their capacity till 10 pm and general and grocery stores will now be open for five days in a week closing only on Saturdays and Sundays.
As of Sunday, there are 3,220 active cases in the state while the cumulative deaths and cumulative recoveries in the state were recorded to be 7,026 and 3,28,262 respectively, as per the data of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, ANI reported.
Last week, the Uttarakhand High Court, directing the state government to frame a standard operating procedure for the Char Dham yatra, had warned it against any laxity as seen during the Kumbh Mela, which led to a spike in coronavirus cases.
Dissatisfied with an affidavit filed by tourism secretary Dilip Jawalkar, the court said that the government has only stated that the Char Dham Yatra is barred till June 22 but there is no clarity if it will be carried out in a phased manner.
The court observed that the government issued its SOPs a day before the beginning of the Kumbh and due to a lack of preparation, there was an increase in coronavirus cases, which tarnished the reputation of the state. The court said it is the job of the government to take policy decisions and if it wants to carry out the yatra in a phased manner, then there should be SOPs and medical facilities for the safety of the passengers and local residents.
The court said that these arrangements should be decided in time and that the pilgrims will have to follow the rules
The court had previously, in April, asked the state government to publish the standard operating procedures for the forthcoming yatra in view of the rising COVID-19 cases, observing that the pilgrimage cannot be allowed to turn into another Kumbh.
COVID-19 norms were openly flouted during the Haridwar Kumbh Mela and a majority of the 48.51 lakh people who took part in the last two royal baths (shahi snan) held on the occasion of Somwati Amavasya on 12 April and Mesh Sankranti on 14 April were seen without masks and did not maintain social distancing.
With inputs from PTI