No Plan To Shut, Says Tirupati Temple As Priests, Staff Test Covid +ve

There are no plans to stop public darshan at Tirumala Tirupati Balaji temple, said YV Subba Reddy, chairperson of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Board

Tirupati: Fourteen priests were among 140 temple employees who tested positive

New Delhi:

People can continue to visit the famous Tirumala Tirupati Balaji temple, the top official of the temple's board has said amid a controversy over priests and employees getting infected with the highly contagious coronavirus. The temple's board decided to re-open it on June 11, in line with the centre's "Unlock" plans to handhold the country out of the pandemic in phases.

There are no plans to stop public darshan at Tirumala Tirupati Balaji temple, said YV Subba Reddy, chairperson of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) Board. He said there is no evidence of pilgrims testing positive for coronavirus.

Fourteen priests were among 140 temple employees who tested positive for COVID-19, which is known to spread faster in crowded places, hence the need for social distancing, according to the authorities.

Seventy have recovered, Mr Reddy said, adding most of those who got infected with coronavirus are from the Andhra Pradesh Police who have been working with the temple. "Only one of them is having severe symptoms," the TTD chairperson said.

"We have no plan to close Tirumala temple. Senior priests will not be put on duty. Priests and employees have requested separate accommodation," Mr Reddy said, adding a separate facility for making food for the employees will be set up.

The honorary chief priest, Ramana Dikshitulu, has raised concern over priests and employees testing positive. "@ysjagan 15 out of 50 archakas carona +ve quarantined. Still 25 results awaited. TTD EO and AEO refuse to stop darshans. Obediently following anti hereditary archaka and anti brahmin policy of TDP and CBN. Disaster if this continues. Please take action," Ramana Dikshitulu tweeted, tagging Chief Minister YS Jagan Mohan Reddy.

Mr Reddy said the honorary chief priest should have given his suggestions to the TTD Board instead of putting them out on social media.

Ramana Dikshitulu was removed as chief priest of the temple in 2018 after he crossed the age for retirement. He had also alleged the TTD of financial wrongdoings.

Mr Reddy reappointed him honorary chief priest - to serve the temple as an adviser - after his YSR Congress Party came to power in May 2019.

Coronavirus cases in India have crossed the one million-mark, recording 34,956 fresh infections and 687 deaths in the biggest one-day jump today, government data shows. It put total cases recorded since the outbreak began in the country at 1,003,832 with 25,602 deaths. Over 6.35 lakh people or 63.34 per cent of the patients have recovered.