Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) have been announced by the Jammu and Kashmir Government for the resuming of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Yatra starting from August 16. The shrine had remained closed for five months due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The order includes general guidelines for all religious places in the Union Territory which are opening from August 16.
News had spread earlier that the Vaishno Devi Yatra might not resume after all from August 16 due to some fresh positive coronavirus cases. But the good news is that pilgrims can finally visit the shrine following the guidelines, which we will elaborate in this article.
The general guidelines for all places of worship state that visitors have to wear masks to be allowed entry while maintaining a distance of 6 feet from one another at all times. People &ldquoabove 60 years of age&rdquo, pregnant women, persons with co-morbidities and children under the age 10 years have been advised to stay home.
Religious organisations have to make provide provisions for the washing of hands and feet with water and soap. Nobody shall be permitted to touch statues, idols or holy books.
Large gatherings will not be allowed inside the area, only singular persons will be let in. The offering of prasad will not be allowed.
Sanitisation has to be done at regular intervals by the temple authorities.
It is mandatory for all visitors to install and use the Aarogya Setu app. Only asymptomatic persons will be allowed to enter. Special precautions shall be taken in major shrines such as Shahdara Sharief, Charar-e-Sharief, Nangali Sahab and Hazratbal.
The order states that since a huge number of pilgrims visit the Vaishno Devi shrine at Katra, several additional precautions &ldquoshall be applied to this shrine.&rdquo These include maximum 5,000 pilgrims each day till September 30, 2020.
For those pilgrims coming from outside J&K, only 500 will be permitted daily. Visitors have to register through online mode to avoid the gathering at counters in Katra.
All pilgrims coming from outside J&K and from Red Zone districts of J&K will have to take the COVID-19 antigen test. If the result is negative, only then will they be allowed entry. The staff of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board will also undergo these tests periodically to check the spread of coronavirus. Social distancing has to be maintained even inside the caves for sufficient ventilation. Not more than 600 people will be allowed to gather inside the Bhawan area at any time.
Apart from the above SOPs one of the important guidelines is that the Vaishno Devi administration has to ensure the provision of dedicated facilities for Isolation and quarantine purpose.