Days after Uttarakhand Chief Minister, who is currently under quarantine after testing positive for Covid-19, said that no Covid-negative reports will be required for pilgrims participating in the ‘shahi snans’ at the Kumbh meal in Haridwar, the Chief Secretary on Wednesday told the high court that visitors will have to carry negative certificates.
The Kumbh starts on April 1 and the Centre has asked the Uttarakhand government about the need for stringent measures to control the spread of the disease. A central team led by the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) Director had visited Uttarakhand on March 16-17 to review the medical and public health measures undertaken by the state for the ongoing Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
"We will adhere with the Standard Operation Procedure (SOP) as suggested (by union health ministry)" Chief secretary Om Prakash told News18. As per the union government's SOP issued in January this year, pilgrims are required to have RT-PCR Covid negative test report done 72 hours prior to their visit. The reports are then required to be uploaded on the Uttarakhand government's portal.
The state government has issued SOP for the Kumbh pilgrims. The restrictions include ban children below the age of 10 years, pregnant women and senior citizens above 65 years from visiting due to public safety measures.
However, despite the restrictions, The new Uttrakhand CM Teerath Singh Rawat invited 'everyone' to the Kumbh. "People wait for the Kumbh for 12 long years. Everyone wants to take a holy dip. Who are we to stop them" CM told News18 this week.
It is learnt that several PILs were filed in the Uttarakhand High Court on the matter. Court had earlier directed the state government to strictly follow guidelines for the Kumbh festival. However, after the CM's statement, officials were in a tizzy and now after HC directives, officials need to issue clarifications. Chief Secretary in the recent statement underlined that the government will adhere to the SOP and court directives.
Next month four major auspicious ‘snans’ will take place – Somvati Amavasya, Baisakhi, Ram Navmi and Chaitra Purnima. It will be a litmus test for the state government officials to follow directives and restrict numbers of the pilgrims.