A day after the Union Health Secretary wrote to the Chief Secretary of State expressing his concerns over “inadequate” preparations to deal with the spread of Covid-19 in Haridwar Mahakumbh amid the Growing number of Covid-19 cases across the country, Haridwar district administration and Mela authorities have stepped up preparations for the same. The administration continues to face challenges given the number of pilgrims who will be attending the world’s largest religious congregation.
The health department has decided to increase the number of tests during Mahakumbh mela which is to start from April 1 and continue until April 30. A government order on the same is yet to come. He also decided to focus particularly on worshipers from states including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, Madhya Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Karnataka, Haryana and Uttar Pradesh, where the cases have increased dramatically in recent days. Many experts call it the “second wave” of the spread of Covid-19.
Haridwar Chief Medical Officer Dr SK Jha said that, following instructions from the Center to step up precautions against Covid-19, the district health department has decided to increase the number of tests in the Mela region. by roping in private pathology companies.
“To ensure maximum random testing of pilgrims during Mahakumbh Peak, especially during Shahi Snans, we would increase testing by about four times. We also worked with seven private pathology companies to perform the Covid-19 testing, ”said Dr Jha.
He said the administration had built a 1,500-bed Covid-19 facility in an effort to isolate worshipers who tested positive for the virus.
“Apart from that, six temporary hospitals are also being built across the Mahakumbh region. In addition, the ashrams and medical schools in Haridwar would also be used to ensure adequate beds for the isolation of Covid-19 during the fair which is expected to see millions of worshipers, especially during the Shahi Snans ”, said the Dr Jha.
Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat previously eased Covid-19 restrictions in the Mahakumbh, including ending the mandatory negative Covid-19 RT-PCR test report, saying “the mega-event takes place every 12 years, so the devotees cannot be prevented from coming. He had also promised to operate additional buses to transport worshipers from neighboring states to Haridwar in addition to asking the railways to run additional trains during Shahi Snans during the Mahakumbh.
His decision has been questioned by many experts apart from the previous CM Trivendra Singh Rawat who said that “lifting the restrictions would be very risky for the state given the growing number of cases in the country”. Later on Saturday, during his visit to Haridwar, the chief minister said that “the faith of the faithful will overcome the fear of Covid-19”, after which he tested positive for the virus on Monday.
As a precaution, the authorities would also carry out a random sampling of people coming from public transport and private vehicles.
“If a person tests positive for the virus on public transport, then they will be isolated in Covid care centers according to standards. However, if a person coming from their private vehicle tested positive, they would be fired, ”said Dr AS Sengar, Mahakumbh Nodal Health Officer. The official said that in addition to trained doctors and nurses, medical students would also be deployed to health facilities during Mahakumbh.
He also stressed the strict observance of the precautions relating to Covid-19 by the participants in the mega-event.
“To ensure compliance with the Centre’s guidelines, the mela administration has started to make the necessary arrangements. Masks will be compulsory for all pilgrims which will be provided to them free of charge. The installation of disinfectant dispensers, the regular disinfection of Ganga’s ghats and the installation of tap soap for hand washing are also provided by the mela administration, ”he said.
He also informed that during the first Shahi Snaan of Mahakumbh on March 11, around twenty teams from the health department were formed to randomly check negative RT-PCR reports of pilgrims and tourists staying in hotels, lodges. , ashrams, dharamshalas and guest houses.
Amid the recent surge in positive Covid-19 cases, the administration held a meeting with the dharamshala, hotels, the travel association and traders on Monday to take adequate preventive action regarding Covid-19.
“From now on, authorities would check hotels, lodges and dharamshalasas on a daily basis to make sure they are following Covid guidelines,” said another officer of the mela Ramji Sharan Sharma.
Besides the health administration, the police have also prepared to implement Covid-19 precautions during Mahakumbh.
Kumbh traffic officer Prakash Deoli said: “Due to the large number of pilgrims coming from buses and private vehicles, we have already improved the infrastructure at border checkpoints with a diversion plan ready. to be implemented in the event of an increasing influx of pilgrims. during Mahakumbh. “
He added: “The entry points to Haridwar from Narsain, Mandavar, Kali Nadi, Chidiyapur, Chila Canal and Raiwala will be occupied by state police and paramilitary force personnel to ensure that Covid guidelines -19 are followed by all. “
Experts are, however, skeptical of the administration’s claims regarding Covid-19 precautions, particularly the number of tests it performs daily in Haridwar.
Social activist Anoop Nautiyal, who has been monitoring the pandemic situation in the state since the lockdown, said: “Regarding the letter from the Union Health Secretary to the Chief Secretary of State, she suggests that the state informed him. that the government performs around 55,000 Covid-19 tests per day, which is hard to believe. “
“According to the daily health bulletin published by the state health department, from March 1 to 21, a total of about 1 lakh tests were performed with about 5000 tests per day, which is much less than that. which is declared by the State before Center. With the number of cases increasing again, the state should ensure foolproof facilities to handle the spread, otherwise it could prove to be very fatal for us given the limited resources at our disposal, ”Nautiyal said.