With the Lord Ayyappa temple in Sabarimala all set to commence its two-month-long annual Mandala-Makaravillaku season from November 16, the Kerala government has issued health advisory to ensure strict compliance by pilgrims while trekking to the hill shrine to prevent the spread of coronavirus.
As religious congregations and pilgrimages have turned out to be the hotbeds of transmission of the virus across the globe and in various parts of the country, the Left government is taking all precautions as lakhs of pilgrims throng the state during the pilgrimage season.
The temple was opened for devotees for five days last month during the monthly pujas, after remaining shut for over six months.
Closed spaces with poor airflow, crowded places, close face-to-face contact among pilgrims have to be avoided, and to ensure safe pilgrimage there is a need to restrict the number of pilgrims being allowed each day, the advisory said.
The government has decided to allow 1,000 pilgrims every day to offer prayers.
Pilgrims must frequently wash hands, maintain physical distancing, use face masks and carry hand sanitisers with them, the advisory said.
Those who have been recently exposed to the disease or who have had symptoms like cough, respiratory problems, loss of smell, and fatigue should keep away from the journey, it added.
All pilgrims will have to carry a COVID-19 negative certificate with tests done 24 hours before reaching base camp Nilakkal.
They can also get tested from "STEP" kiosks run by the government or private agencies that have been arranged at major public places and along the way to Sabarimala, it stated.
As 10 per cent of patients who have recovered from Covid may have lingering symptoms which may persist upto three weeks post recovery and two per cent may have symptoms which continue for over three months post recovery, such devotees should avoid the pilgrimage, the advisory said.
All those who have recovered from the disease and those who have been asymptomatic should undergo a graded exercise programme and pulmonary rehabilitation programme spread over weeks to ensure their physical fitness before embarking on the pilgrimage.
As congregation of people can facilitate transmission of the disease, crowding at Nilakkal and Pamba base camps should be avoided, it added.
Drivers, cleaners and cooks accompanying the pilgrims have been advised to follow all the protocols to prevent the spread of the virus.
Acceleration of COVID-19 transmission through religious gatherings have been observed in many places in Malaysia, India, Pakistan and South Korea, the advisory said.
Transmission of Covid has been witnessed at Lord Venkateswara Temple in Tirupati even after following strict COVID protocols.
Many pilgrimages such as Kailash and Amarnath Yatras had been suspended this year, while Hajj was scaled down considerably.
The Ayyappa temple had opened for devotees during the five day monthly pujas from October 17 after remaining shut for the past six months.
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