Up to 40 pilgrims and locals were testing positive every day at the festival in Haridwar in Uttarakhand state, the health ministry said. "This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turning to an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh," it added. (Image: AFP)
The Haridwar Kumbh Mela formally began on April 1 in Uttarakhand. The centre has asked the Uttarakhand government to ensure that all "stringent measures" are followed to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Haridwar and Rishikesh emerged as COVID-19 hotspots in Uttarakhand with a significant number of pilgrims and tourists testing positive for coronavirus.
Read: Rishikesh and Haridwar emerge as COVID-19 hotspots ahead of Kumbh Mela 2021
Around 76 people tested positive for the virus at a five-star hotel in Rishikesh, forcing the administration to shut down the hotel for three days.
The centre has already flagged the congregation as a potential super-spreader event. In his letter to the Uttarakhand Chief Secretary, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan noted that around 10-20 pilgrims and 10-20 locals are being reported positive every day.
Also read | Health Ministry flags Kumbh Mela as superspreader event: Here's everything you need to know
"This positivity rate has the potential to rapidly turning to an upsurge in cases, given the expected large footfall during Kumbh," the ministry said in its statement.
The ministry has also advised the state to target significantly enhanced testing in potentially high transmission areas and continue periodic testing of frontline workers before and after the auspicious 'Snan' days at the Kumbh.
The congregation on the banks of the Ganges in Haridwar in Uttarakhand will take place from April 1 to 30, with three "shahi snan" (major bathing) on April 12, 14 and 27.
COVID-19 guidelines for Kumbh Mela
The Uttarakhand government has mandated the registration of the saints coming to attend the Kumbh. Also, a COVID-19 negative test report is mandatory. The devotees will have to get their RT-PCR test done 72 hours before participating in the Kumbh Mela.
The SOP also makes it compulsory for devotees to bring a medical fitness certificate and an e-pass or e-permit issued to them after registering on the Kumbh Mela web portal.
Kumbh Mela 2021: Important dates, COVID-19 guidelines and more you need to know
As far as possible, people must maintain a six-foot distance in public places and wear masks, the SOP stated.
Enforcement agencies have been told to levy penalties on those not wearing masks or face covers or for not following physical distancing norms.
The SOP is to be adhered to at all facilities in the Kumbh Mela area, including parking lots, ghats, railway stations, bus stands, hotels, guest houses, ashrams, and dharmashalas during the entire duration of the event.Click here for Moneycontrol's full coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak