Virtual queues, tests mandatory: Sabarimala to open for devotees with COVID-19 protocol
Thiruvananthapuram, Sep 28: Announcing steps to conduct the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, the Kerala government on Monday said the two-month long season from November 16 will be held strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocol.
The government said steps will be taken to ensure that those infected with the novel coronavirus would not participate in the pilgrimage. According to officials, those below 10 years and above 60 will not be allowed to take part in the pilgrimage.
The government also said as part of ensuring a safe pilgrimage season amid the COVID-19 pandemic, only a limited number of pilgrims who register through the virtual queue system will be allowed entry at the temple.
After chairing a meeting of various departments to discuss the preparations for organising this year''s pilgrimage commencing November 16, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said the pilgrims will not be allowed to stay back at the temple compound after darshan.
The Health Department will study if wearing masks while climbing the hills will create any health problems for the pilgrims, he said.
Devotees will not be allowed to take dip in river Pamba.Instead, shower systems will be arranged at Erumely and Pamba for them to take bath, the Chief Minister said.
Vijayan said special arrangements will be made for performing offerings including Neyyabhishekam (ghee abhisheka, an important offering to Lord Ayyappa) and Annadanam (the sacred tradition of offering food) adhering to COVID-19 protocol.
To prevent spread of the novel coronavirus during pilgrimage, drinking water to pilgrims climbing the hills for darshan will be provided in steel water pots.
Vijayan said outlets of the state''s Supplyco and Consumerfed departments will be opened at Pamba to ensure availability of the essential items.
Meanwhile, a committee headed by the Chief secretary has been appointed to prepare a report on how many pilgrims from other states can be allowed.
Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran would organise a virtual meet with his counterparts of neighbouring states-- Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and Puducherry-- to discuss the pilgrimage.