Amid COVID-19 Surge, Uttarakhand Govt Suspends Char Dham Yatra

Only priests of the four temples will perform rituals and puja, CM Tirath Singh Rawat said on Thursday.

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Image used for representational purposes.

Amid a surge in COVID-19 cases, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat on Thursday, 29 April, announced that the state government had suspended the Char Dham Yatra this year in view of the COVID-19 situation in the state, reported ANI.

Only priests of the four temples will perform the rituals and the puja, Rawat said.

The Uttarakhand government was to hold a meeting on Thursday to make a decision about the pilgrimage, that was set to begin from 14 May, reported Hindustan Times.

The Uttarakhand government had on Wednesday said was it was focussing on drafting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the four-day pilgrimage to the shrines – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath.

The hill state’s tourism minister Satpal Maharaj said that the government was making all possible arrangements for the Char Dham Yatra and would take a call on it after the lockdown ended in different parts of the state.

On Wednesday, Maharaj was quoted as saying, “We have made the negative RT-PCR report mandatory for Char Dham Yatra to ensure that the infection does not spread.”

He further asserted that, “The yatra is a matter of faith and we are committed to providing every facility to our pilgrims from all over the world,” according to a report byThe New Indian Express.

Between 31 March and 24 April, which was the period coinciding with the Kumbh Mela, an 1,800 percent spike in COVID cases was observed in Uttarakhand.

SOPs had been released for the Kumbh Mela as well, but were blatantly flouted, with police officers saying that had tried to enforce COVID-appropriate behaviour, it could have led to a stampede.

On Wednesday, Uttarakhand's COVID-19 tally rose to 1,68,616 with the highest single-day rise of 6,054 cases. The death toll climbed to 2,417, with new 108 fatalities, reported PTI.

(With inputs from ANI, PTI, Hindustan Times and The New Indian Express.)

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