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Kumbh Mela 2021: Huge crowds unlikely on major bathing days this year

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Rishikesh, Apr 07: Kumbh Mela officials have made all arrangements for the three key bathing dates on the banks of Ganga but said they do not expect any huge turnout of devotees due to anti-Covid restrictions imposed amid the rising cases of infection.

"We always make arrangements for the Kumbh in accordance with the largest estimated turnouts. So, we are well prepared to tackle any situation," Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal said.

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"But with the second wave of coronavirus infection getting stronger and the SOPs in force, we don''t expect huge crowds on the ghats on the Shahi Snan days," he added.

Over 12,000 police and 400 paramilitary force personnel are keeping an eye on Kumbh Kshetra spread over an area of 670 hectares from Haridwar to Devprayag to maintain law and order and ensure that the anti-Covid protocol is strictly followed.

Held every 12 years from January to April, this year''s Kumbh has been curtailed to just one month from April 1 to 30 due to the surge in Covid cases in many states including Uttarakhand which is reporting more than 500 cases daily. During the month, the three major bathing days (shahi snan or royal baths) fall on April 12, 14 and 27.

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Top priority is being accorded to stop the spread of the coronavirus infection during the religious congregation with RT-PCR tests of devotees being conducted at 30 places in Kumbh area which is spread over 670 hectares from Haridwar to Devprayag, Mela official (Medical) Arjun Sengar said.

A total of 12 labs are testing samples and a dedicated Covid hospital with 550 beds is also ready, he said. Meanwhile, seers representing 13 Akhadas have also been asked to encourage devotees and their disciples and followers to take anti-Covid precautions.

Garhwal Commissioner Ravinath Raman also said following the SOPs issued by the central and state governments because of the second wave of infection is the only effective safeguard against the virus.

People are being made to adhere strictly to anti-Covid protocols in compliance with the orders of the Uttarakhand High Court which has made it compulsory for devotees coming to Kumbh to bring a negative RT-PCR test report not older than 72 hours with them, Raman said.

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    Devotees are not being allowed to proceed to the Mela Kshetra without a negative RT-PCR test report and a health certificate from a competent authority that they are not suffering from any serious medical condition, he said.

    Around 35,000 RT-PCR tests are being conducted daily in the Kumbh Mela area and efforts are being made to increase the numbers of testing to beyond 50,000 per day, he said.

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