COVID-19 protocol went for a toss as lakhs turned up for the second shahi snan (royal bath) in the Ganga on April 12. The authorities struggled to enforce social distancing as maskless pilgrims squeezed shoulder-to-shoulder on the banks of the Ganga jostling for a dip, despite surging coronavirus cases.
By evening, over 28 lakh devotees had taken a dip. Between 11.30 pm Sunday and 5 pm Monday, over 18,169 devotees were tested and 102 were found COVID positive, Indian Express reported.
Track this LIVE blog for the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic
The number of tests was far less than expected despite the state government making a negative RT-PCR test mandatory. As per the report, devotees without a test report were allowed to take a dip.
Additionally, no arrangements were made for thermal screening, and the new AI-enabled cameras were rendered useless as no action was taken against those found without a mask, the report said.
Read: AI-enabled cameras set up to flag mask-less visitors, crowd surge in stampede-prone areas
"Thermal screening and rapid antigen tests were done at the state borders, railway stations, and ghat areas. The ghats were reserved for the akharas and so tests and screening were not done. They will be done again when the snan of akharas will end," Kumbh Mela’s Covid in-charge Dr Avinash Khanna said, as per the report.
Kumbh Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal said that challans were not issued on April 12 to avoid further crowding.
Kumbh Mela 2021: Here's everything you need to know before visiting
"Due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. A stampede-like situation may arise if we try to enforce social distancing at ghats," Gunjyal said.
While Har ki Pairi, considered the holiest of the ghats was reserved for the akhadas from 7 am onwards, common people took the dip at the other ghats of the Ganga, revered by millions as a goddess.
Kumbh Mela: Thousands take dip in Ganga on Shahi Snan amid rising COVID cases
It was the second shahi snan during the ongoing Kumbh Mela, which has been limited to just one month due to rising cases of coronavirus. The last royal bath' was conducted on the occasion of Mahashivratri on March 11. The third shahi snan is on April 14.
Held once every three years, Kumbh Mela is often labelled the world's largest religious gathering, but the 2021 event has posed a challenge to health officials who are struggling to enforce pandemic safety measures.Click here for Moneycontrol’s full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic