At the Haridwar Kumbh Mela pilgrims now have to show a COVID-19 "negative" report. The RT-PCR test report has been made mandatory for people to attend the mega religious congregation. The duration of Kumbh Mela has also been curtailed to just one month for the first time in its history in view of a recent surge in COVID-19 cases. According to a notification, the congregation on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar will take place from April 1 to 30, There are three "shahi snan" or major bathing dates on April 12, 14 and 27.
Thousands of devotes take a dip in the Ganga during the Kumbh Mela with their number increasing manifold on the days of "shahi snan". Authorities also expect heavy turnouts on the occasions of Chaitra Pratipada on April 13 and Ram Navami on April 21.
Mahakumbh, held once in 12 years, usually lasts around three-and-a-half months. Its last edition was held in Haridwar from January 14 to April 28 in 2010. According to the notification issued on Wednesday, the Kumbh Kshetra (area) covers Neergarh, Tapovan, Bitthal Ashram Marg to Muni-Ki-Reti Road and Rishi-Haridwar bypass in the north, and Narendra Nagar-Rishikesh bypass, the forest checkpost on Rishikesh-Dehradun Road, Rishikesh-Haridwar bypass, Mansa Devi, Billkeshwar Mandir, Tibri Mohand, BHEL residential buildings, Roorkee-Bahadarabad road and up to 13 km on Haridwar-Delhi road in the west.
In the south, the congregation area will extend from Bahadarabad-Haridwar bypass to Siddha Sot Setu and from Siddha Sot Setu to Neelkanth Mahadev temple in the east.
A "negative" RT-PCR test report, not older than 72 hours before arrival, has been made mandatory for devotees by the Uttarakhand High Court. Devotees who have taken the COVID-19 vaccine will have to upload their certificates in an official portal and follow the guidelines.
After the Centre called for stringent measures to control the spread of COVID-19 during Kumbh, the Uttarakhand government had asked people to strictly follow the guidelines. In the light of guidelines issued by both the central and state governments in the past for surveillance, containment and caution, Chief Secretary Om Prakash on Monday asked the district administrations, various state and central government organisations and other stakeholders to take all necessary measures to ensure wearing of face mask, maintaining hand hygiene and social distance by people.
Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan had recently written to the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary underlining the need for taking strict measures to check the spread of the pandemic, especially during the Mahakumbh.