The Odisha government on Thursday, 10 June, announced that devotees will be restricted from participating in the Rath Yatra, which will only be held in Puri with strict enforcement of COVID-19 protocols.
The announcement comes a month ahead of the religious festival, which will be held on 12 July. Last year, too, the devotees were barred from taking part in the yatra.
Special Relief Commissioner (SRC) PK Jena said that all Supreme Court guidelines issued last year will be pertinent on the occasion.
He said, "This year also, Lord Jagannath's Rath Yatra will be held sans devotees in Puri. The administration has prohibited similar celebrations in other parts of the state," PTI reported.
The SRC further said that only chosen COVID-negative and fully immune persons will be allowed to partake in Snan Purnima’ (bathing ritual) and other ceremonies, the report added.
Additionally, Jena reportedly said, "Curfew will be clamped on the holy town on the day of Rath Yatra. All restrictions imposed during last year's event will remain in force.”
The official, however, said that devotees will be able to witness the programmes on live webcasts and on television. On the subject of the nine-day car festival, he said, "just about 500 servitors will be allowed to pull the chariots during the period,” PTI reported.
District Collector Samarth Verma said that Puri is still recording around 300 COVID-19 cases daily.
He said, "Only essential and emergency services will be allowed during the festival. Vehicular movement to and from Puri will be restricted.”