COVID-19 protocol at Kumbh: Amid the coronavirus pandemic, Kumbh Mela 2021 is set to be celebrated in Haridwar’s Ganga Ghat next month. The pandemic poses a big unique challenge for the authorities, because the Kumbh Mela is a huge religious event and balancing that with the COVID-19 protocol of social distancing would be a thin line to walk, according to a report in IE. The Centre released the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for COVID-19, based on which the state released detailed guidelines for railway and bus stations, hotels, ashrams, pilgrims, restaurants, parking areas as well as ghats.
The report cited an official as saying that they hoped the guidelines would lead to less pilgrims visiting the Mela.
So that the authorities are able to control the crowds, halting points would be set up at the ghats as well as the 156 sq-kms of Mela area, which spreads over Haridwar, Pauri Garhwal and Dehradun districts of Uttarakhand.
The state SOP requires devotees to have an RT-PCR test done within 72 hours prior to their visit, as only those devotees having a negative test report would be allowed in the Mela area, and these reports would be checked at the Mela area’s entry points and at the checkpoints set up at the district border.
Registration on the web portal of the Mela is mandatory for all the devotees before they visit, as their documents would be validated first before they are issued e-passes. There can be random checks for e-pass and RT-PCR reports at any point, including but not limited to while boarding the trains, buses or commercial vehicles and at places of stay.
A mandatory medical fitness certificate would be needed by devotees coming from other states, and this would have to be uploaded on the web portal while registration and checked randomly.
For the people falling in the vulnerable groups, including those having comorbidities, pregnant women and those aged above 65 years, managements at hotels and dharamshalas would try to dissuade them from attending the Kumbh Mela even if they presented a negative RT-PCR report.
Wearing of masks would be a necessity in order to attend the Kumbh Mela, and mask dispensing kiosks would be set up in the parking lots and at entry points. Moreover, masks would also be distributed without charging any fees. Enforcement agencies have also been directed to levy penalties on defaulters who would fail to wear masks and comply with protocols.
In case of any devotees showing any signs of having COVID-19, the devotee would be isolated and the ashram, dharamshala, restaurant or hotel would have to inform the COVID control room.
Devotees would only be allowed to bathe for 20 minutes at maximum, and group bhajans or bhandaras would remain prohibited.