The Kerala Health Department has issued COVID-19 guidelines for pilgrims looking to visit the Sabarimala hill shrine in Pathanamthitta. Devotees are to mandatorily register themselves with the Kerala state police virtual portal and upload a certificate testing negative for the coronavirus, obtained 48 hours before registration.
Only 1000 pilgrims per day on weekdays and 2000 on weekends, will be allowed on the portal. Registrations will be done on a first come, first served basis and upon hitting the cut off number, it will be closed. The cost of COVID-19 tests will be borne by the devotees themselves. Further, no children below the age of 10 or senior citizens above 60 will be allowed entry into the temple. All pilgrims will be instructed to carry the Ayushman Bharat card with them.
Among things and places that are banned in Sabarimala are access to the Pampa river and ghee abhishekam. Devotees will not be permitted to take a dip in the river, after taking into consideration the COVID-19 cases in the state. Further, halting in the night at the Pampa, Sannidhanam and the Ganapathi temple will also be prohibited. Further, devotees can enter the temple only via two routes - Erumeli and Vadaderrikara.
Further, officials in each district have been instructed to get in touch with 15 Guru Swamys in each district (Guru Swamys are priests who tie the Sabarimala kettu or bag to carry to the temple and perform the pooja), and instruct them on the COVID-19 guidelines. Signboards too are to be placed on the roads, to instruct the devotees on guidelines.
The Transport Commissioner too has been instructed to issue guidelines to travel agencies regarding transporting people to the temple and back.
Pilgrims have also been advised to wash their hands at regular intervals, maintain social distancing while climbing up and down the hill. They should also wear masks at all times and carry sanitisers with them. Further, those who have recently been cured of COVID-19 and those with fever and other COVID-19 symptoms will not be allowed to visit the temple.
COVID-19 tests done in government hospitals or authorised private labs will only be accepted.
All pilgrims are further advised to undergo a graded exercise program and a pulmonary rehabilitation program spread over weeks to ensure their physical fitness before they embark on the Sabarimala trek. This as COVID-19 recovered patients may experience exertional dysponea (laboured or heavy breathing) post recovery which may increase during his exertion activities like treks. Sometimes asymptomatic patients too might experience this. Hence the advisory asks all pilgrims to take the programs before they visit the hill shrine.
Lastly, all drivers, cleaners and cooks accompanying the pilgrims are also advised to follow the guidelines.
The Sabarimala hill shrine will open to pilgrims on November 21.