FAQ: Amarnath Yatra Amid COVID – Who is Allowed? What’re New SOPs?
Here’s all you need to know about the Amarnath Yatra during the coronavirus pandemic.
The annual Amarnath Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir will be held amid the coronavirus pandemic, for 15 days, starting 21 July till 3 August, announced the Shri Amarnath Shrine Board.
Even as the board awaits final nod from the government, here’s all you need to know about the yatra amid the pandemic.
Who will be allowed to take part in the Amarnath Yatra?
- Barring sadhus, no pilgrim above the age of 55 will be allowed to participate in the Amarnath Yatra
- Only asymptomatic pilgrims will be allowed to undertake the yatra
- Only those pilgrims who have registered online will be allowed
Do pilgrims need to test COVID-19 negative for undertaking the yatra?
Those undertaking the yatra must have a COVID-19 negative certificate, said an official, speaking to Hindustan Times.
ICMR guidelines say that asymptomatic people, who have not come in contact with a COVID-19 positive person, will not be tested.
Therefore, there is no clarity about this yet. Watch this space for more information.
Has the route of Amarnath Yatra changed?
The pilgrimage will now take place through the shorter route, from Baltal to the Amarnath caves. The longer route from Pahalgam will not be used due to the pandemic.
The Baltal route is only 14 km, while the Pahalgam route is 45-kilometer long.
Is this the first time the Amarnath Yatra is being cut short?
No, in 2019, the Centre cut short the yatra after alleged terror threats, ahead of the scrapping of Article 370.
Is there a restriction on the number of people allowed?
Yes, according to media reports, only 2,000 pilgrims are likely to be allowed per day, due to the pandemic. However, the government is expected to make announcement regarding this shortly.
I want to travel from Delhi to Jammu and Kashmir, to undertake Amarnath Yatra. Should I quarantine myself in the state?
As of now, the Jammu and kashmir government mandates 14-day institutional quarantine for anyone who enters the state. However, it is not clear if the same rules would apply for Amarnath yatris. Watch this space for more information on this.
What precautions should be taken by devotees while visiting places of worship?
- All persons to be allowed entry only if using face covers/masks
- Footwear to be preferably taken off inside own vehicle
- If needed, they should be kept in separate slots for each individual/family by themselves
- Maintain physical distancing, of a minimum of 6 feet, at all times when queuing up for entry
- People should wash their hands and feet with soap and water before entering the premises
- Seating arrangements to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained
- Devotees are not allowed to touch statues, idols or holy books etc
- Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mats or pieces of cloth, which they may take back with them
What precautions should be taken by religious places amid the pandemic?
- Devotees have to be provided with hand sanitizer and thermal screening provisions
- Staggering of visitors to be done, whenever possible
- Any shops, stalls, cafeteria, etc, outside and within the premises, shall follow social distancing norms at all times
- Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises
- Separate entry and exit points for visitors shall be organised
- In view of the potential threat of the spread of infection, as far as feasible, recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed
- Community kitchens/langars /’Ann-daan’, etc at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food
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