The devotees may carry such test reports either on their mobile phones or in hard copies,” says the order. The move, according to the notification, aims to contain the spread of Covid-19 infection during the religious fair. The circular also asks pilgrims to strictly follow all Covid-19 regulations, including maintaining social distancing, wearing masks, installing Aarogya Setu App, and not spitting in public, among others.
IG Kumbh Sanjay Gunjayal said, “We started our preparations as soon as the SOPs were released on Saturday. As the directive says, we plan to inoculate around 12,000 special police officers (SPOs) and local residents, including business persons, who will be there in Haridwar during Kumbh Mela. Apart from them, around 17,000 security personnel, close to 1,000 health workers as well as around 3,000 officials will receive vaccines on priority. We are also working on developing a portal for the Kumbh to verify health certificates.”
Mela officer Deepak Rawat welcomed the SOPs saying, “This clarity was much needed as we were wondering whether a negative Covid-19 test result will be needed or not. We will now focus on sensitization campaigns to make people aware of the dangers of the pandemic. Volunteers will be roped in to help maintain social distancing during the ‘snans’. We have also asked the railways to take the requisite precautions.”
The official added that the local administration has planned to double the capacity of the hospital dedicated for Covid-19 patients in Haridwar. “Earlier, we had planned a 1,000-bed hospital for patients who might contract the virus while visiting the town during the Kumbh. Now, it’s capacity would be increased to 2,000 beds,” he said.
Meanwhile, local hoteliers and traders have expressed their disappointment over the SOP. They say that the order will further hurt businesses, already reeling under losses due to Covid-19.
“The hotel and tourism industry, already facing a crisis due to Covid-19, had huge expectations from the forthcoming Kumbh Mela. However, the latest guidelines will deter tourists from coming to Haridwar. We have asked the state government to extend some relief so that tourists and devotees can come here without hesitation,” said Vibhas Mishra, president of the hoteliers’ association of Haridwar.
Local traders have also echoed similar sentiments. “We depend greatly on sales during mega festivals. The SOP may lead to a dip in the number of devotees. When people are allowed to take part in election rallies without having to show negative Covid-19 reports, then why can’t the rules be the same for the Kumbh Mela? This is a very unfortunate situation,” said Rajendra Keshwani, a local trader.