How a COVID Positive Devotee Infected Fellow Travellers at Kumbh
Amid the surge of COVID-19 cases, fear looms that Kumbh returnees may further spread the infection across India.
Thirty residents of Kherua village from Vidisha in Madhya Pradesh had embarked on their 12-day pilgrimage to the holy Kumbh mela in Haridwar, one of the largest human gatherings on the planet.
Thirty others from neighbouring villages soon joined them. This entourage was on the two-day long, 900 km bus journey from Vidisha to Haridwar.
But midway the pilgrims were taken aback by a COVID scare. This is how a co-passenger who was in the same bus, narrated the incident to The Quint.
“A fellow passenger from the village got a call from the local authorities. His wife was COVID positive, and the authorities had called in to check if his wife was adhering to the quarantine norms. He told them that his wife is in quarantine at home and he is travelling to Haridwar without her.”Kamal Raghuvanshi, Pilgrim who was on the same bus
The pilgrims reached the Kumbh in time for the first and second Shahi Snan that were scheduled on 11 and 12 March. Everything seemed fine to the person who had called, except for the fact that the husband was lying. His COVID positive wife was travelling in the same bus with him.
“Some of us heard about the phone call, we asked him about it. He said that his wife had earlier tested positive and now she has recovered and is doing fine.”Kamal Raghuvanshi, pilgrim who was on the same bus
The pilgrims were at the Kumbh during the first and second Shahi Snan that were scheduled on 11 and 12 March.
Millions took the holy dip in river Ganga during Shahi Snan. Some reports say that over 20 lakh devotees participated in the first Shahi Snan on Maha Shivratri on 11 March.
“Our time in Kumbh was smooth. We were impressed by the arrangements there. There was no checking for COVID cases in the Kumbh.”Krishna Gopal Sharma, pilgrim from Kherua
After the Kumbh, the devotees from Vidisha proceeded ahead with their journey towards Naina Devi temple, Chandi Devi temple and Vaishno Devi temple in Jammu. It was only on 24 March that the Uttarakhand government made it mandatory for devotees to bring a negative RTPCR report not older than 72 hours to attend the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar.
“We underwent the COVID test at the Punjab-Haryana border, but everyone’s report was negative, including the lady who was COVID positive.”Kamal Raghuvanshi, pilgrim who was on the same bus
Some members of the group started falling sick after the mountainous pilgrimage. They returned home on 20 March.
“Just a few days later, I learnt that one of the fellow passengers from the nearby village, who had sat near the COVID positive lady in the bus, had tested positive. Some people in our village were also falling sick by now.”Kamal Raghuvanshi, Pilgrim who was on the same bus
After Kamal informed the local authorities, the Vidisha district hospital sent a team to the village for COVID tests.
“Around 18 people tested positive, initially. After another round of tests, 7-8 more were tested positive.”Kamal Raghuvanshi, pilgrim
It was not just the Kumbh returnees, other villagers too were also infected by now.
“Despite not being from the group that went to the Kumbh, I and my mother are COVID positive. I can’t tell from where I got the virus.”Brindavan Prasad, resident, Kherua
As India continues to reel under the new surge of COVID-19 cases, fear looms that Kumbh returnees may contribute further to the rapid rise in infections. Over 2,000 new cases were reported from the Kumbh between 10 to 14 April.
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