A priest and 14 policemen on duty at Ayodhya's Ram Janambhoomi complex, where the groundbreaking ceremony for the Ram temple is expected to be held on August 5, have tested positive for coronavirus. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is expected to attend the ceremony along with 50 VIPs.
Pradeep Das, the assistant to the chief priest said he has tested positive for coronavirus. The other four priests at the makeshift temple, including chief priest Satyendra Das, have all tested negative for the virus. Another 12 people who are in close proximity to the priests have also tested negative.
The policemen who tested positive were engaged in security duties at the Ram Janmabhoomi complex, the temple trust said. While four of them were on permanent duty inside the complex, the rest took turns sometimes.
Last Saturday, UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath had visited the Ram Janmabhoomi complex to review preparations for the August 5 event.
Photos and videos from the day show the coronavirus-positive priest Pradeep Das standing next to the chief minister during a ritual. The Ram Janmabhoomi chief priest Satyendra Das, who will lead the August 5 ceremony, was also seen standing next to the men.
The programme will go ahead as planned, maintaining all the safety rules for coronavirus, the Trust said. Currently, Ayodhya has 375 active cases of coronavirus, Uttar Pradesh has 29,997 cases.
Around 200 people will be present for the ceremony at the complex. The number will include priests, securitymen, guests and locals, the Trust said.
Huge preparations have been made for the ceremony, including a helipad for the Prime Minister three km from the Ram Janambhoomi site. The road to the temple has been widened. Graffiti paintings depicting the life of the Lord Ram have been put up along the road.
Giant CCTV screens have been erected across Ayodhya so the devotees can watch the programme, the Temple Trust had said.
All senior BJP leaders associated with temple movement have been invited, the Trust said. The list includes BJP veterans Lal Krishna Advani and Murali Manohar Joshi and senior leaders like Uma Bharti, Vinay Katiyar and Sadhvi Ritambhara.
Seniors in the BJP's ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, including its chief Mohan Bhagwat, are also expected to also attend the ceremony.
The Trust -- set up on the directions of the Supreme Court to facilitate the construction of the temple – finalized a date of opening earlier this month. The opening, which was expected earlier this year, was delayed by the coronavirus pandemic.
The makeshift temple built in Ayodhya opened on June 8 after the Centre allowed the opening of religious places as Unlock2 was rolled out across the country.