Amid the rising number of Covid-19 cases in the state and country, the Uttarakhand government is planning to allow pilgrims to attend the upcoming Haridwar Mahakumbh only after undergoing a Covid-19 test, said officials.
The development came after chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat held a review meeting of the Mahakumbh preparations with Mahakumbh officials, Haridwar district administration and police officials.
“It is our responsibility to ensure that pilgrims are able to take holy bath safely amid this pandemic. For that a mechanism should be made to allow only those pilgrims who have undergone a Covid-19 test and turn out negative in that,” said Rawat in the meeting.
Rawat also said that arrangement for thermal screening and conducting rapid antigen test should be made at the entry points of the mela.”
He also directed the authorities to make arrangements for the registration of pilgrims coming for Mahakumbh on the government online portal.
“Also, awareness should be spread with the help of saints and seers so that the pilgrims adhere to precautions like wearing masks and maintaining social distancing,” said Rawat.
The chief minister also stated that the officials should control the number of pilgrims coming to Mahakumbh.
“For that, the officials concerned should make a framework after talking to other states,” he said.
However, health experts say that the government plans to allow pilgrims who have undergone a Covid-19 test or were carrying their Rapid Antigen test results at the Mahakumbh entry points is ‘impractical.’
“The government plan to hold Rapid Antigen test of pilgrims at the mela entry points is neither practical nor possible. It will take a huge amount of resources including both medical equipment and trained manpower. Instead of that, the government should ask the pilgrims to bring their Covid-19 negative test report not more than 48 hours old,” said Dr DD Chowdhury, state secretary Uttarakhand Indian Medical Association.
He also suggested that the government should rather ensure strict adherence to precautions like wearing of masks and maintaining social distancing.
“It should distribute masks to pilgrims who are not having their own. The government could also set up a medical intelligence team to filter out the suspected Covid-19 infected people at Mahakumbh and then provide them proper treatment,” said Dr Chowdhury, adding that the government is likely to face an uphill task in ensuring the safety of people coming to attend Mahakumbh.