Odisha to Conduct Covid-19 Tests for 5,000 People Associated with Rath Yatra

The Odisha government on Wednesday said it has launched a drive to test around 5,000 people associated with Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra for COVID-19, including servitors, police personnel and municipality staff.

The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) said it will set up an exclusive health care centre for the families of servitors.

Ahead of the Rath Yatra, a massive sample collection exercise was conducted on Monday night and one servitor had tested positive, Chief Secretary A K Tripathy said.

He said a total of 16 people, including his family members, were identified during contact tracing.

"Only one of the over 2,000 servitors, whose samples had been collected, tested positive for COVID-19 on June 22. He has been kept away from the rituals, and admitted to a special hospital," a health department official said.

The samples of those he came in contact with have been collected and sent for tests.

"We are expecting test reports of 14 of the 16 people by Wednesday night," another health department official told PTI.

Deputy Chairperson of Shree Jagannath Temple Managing Committee, S C Mohapatra, said about 2,500 servitors will undergo a second round of COVID-19 tests and the process will be completed by June 28 before Lord Jagannath and his

celestial siblings' chariots make a move for returning to the temple, the ritual known as 'Bahuda Jatra'.

"Only those servitors who test negative will be allowed to participate in the 'Bahuda Jatra' scheduled on July 1," he said.

SJTA Chief Administrator Krishna Kumar said it has placed orders for 5,000 face masks to be distributed among the servitors. Hand sanitisers will also be provided to their families, he said.

According to health department sources, Puri district which remained a green zone till May has witnessed a spike in COVID-19 cases, which now stand at 224 including a fatality.

The district has 71 active cases, including the servitor, they said.

Meanwhile, senior temple servitor Bauribandhu Dasmohapatra, who sustained head injuries after falling from a chariot during the Rath Yatra on Tuesday, has been admitted to a private hospital.

"He is being treated in the ICU, and his condition is stable," said deputy chairperson of the State Planning Board, Sanjay Dasburma.