Char Dham Yatra: SOPs Drafted, COVID Report Mandatory Amid Surge

On 27 April, Uttarakhand reported 5,703 new COVID-19 cases and 96 new deaths.

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Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat checks preparations for the Kumbh Mela 2021, in Haridwar. Image used for representational purpose. 

Between 31 March and 24 April, an 1,800 percent spike in COVID cases was observed in Uttarakhand. Despite this, the state’s focus is now on drafting Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the Char Dham Yatra set to begin from 14 May.

The SOPs for the four-day pilgrimage to the shrines – Yamunotri, Gangotri, Kedarnath, and Badrinath has not been issued by the government yet.

State’s tourism minister Satpal 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 asserted that, “Yatra is a matter of faith and we are committed to providing every facility to our pilgrims from all over the world,” The New Indian Express reported.

He added that the government was making all possible arrangements for the Char Dham Yatra and will take a call on it after the lockdown in different parts of the state.

What SOPs Are Expected?

The SOPs are expected to include:

  • Requirement of a negative RT-PCR test
  • Online registration for e-passes
  • Banning pilgrims from entering the sanctum sanctorum
  • Banning hand-to-surface contact
  • Wearing masks will be compulsory
  • Offerings such as flowers or sweets will not be allowed

Though similar SOPs were released for Kumbh Mela as well, they were clearly flouted. Even police officers were reported as saying that if they had tried to enforce COVID appropriate behaviour, it could have led to a stampede.

On 27 April, Uttarakhand reported 5,703 new COVID-19 cases and 96 new deaths. The tally of active cases in the state stands at 43,032 and total deaths at 2,309.

(With inputs from New Indian Express and The Wire)

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