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Sea of devotees throng Haridwar for Shahi Snan at Kumbh amid COVID surge, social distancing goes for a toss

HARIDWAR: A large number of devotees gathered on the banks of river Ganges in Uttarakhand's Haridwar for Kumbh Mela, one of the largest religious gatherings in the world, visibly compromising with social distancing norms at a time when COVID-19 cases are again on the rise.

The huge crowd flocked to Har Ki Pauri ghat on the banks of the holy river for Shahi Snan or royal bath, violating the COVID-19 rules issued by the Health Ministry.

A negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours before arrival has been made mandatory for devotees gathering for the Kumbh by the Uttarakhand High Court.

'Difficult to ensure social distancing'

Kumbh Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal said that they are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID appropriate behaviour but it is difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats.

"We are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID appropriate behaviour. But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats," he said.

He further said that a stampede-like situation may arise if they would try to enforce social distancing.

In view of the coronavirus pandemic, the duration of Kumbh Mela has been curtailed this year to 30 days for the first time in the history of the grand religious congregation and is being organised from April 1 to 30. In normal circumstances, Kumbh is held for nearly four months once in 12 years.

Last month, the Centre had asked the Uttarakhand government to take stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19 during Kumbh Mela while highlighting the concerns raised by the high-level central team that visited the state to review the situation.

In a letter to Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted that as per the report of the team, 10 to 20 pilgrims and 10 to 20 locals are being reported COVID-19 positive every day.



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