Puri Shree Jagannath Temple will remain closed for devotees till May 15 in the wake of surge of Covid-19 cases in Odisha as well as in Puri city.
The decision was taken after a meeting of the Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) with the servitors of the shrine on Saturday. Though devotees will not be allowed to enter, the age-old traditions of Niti-Kanti (rituals) of Shree Jagannath will continue with the help of servitors and temple officials.
Sources said the decision to stop the entry of devotees was taken to keep the servitors free from corona infection so that they can complete all the rituals related to Rath Yatra beginning from Akshya Tritiya, on May 15. “There has been apprehension that the Rath Yatra will be held this year like the previous year sans devotees,” said an official of the temple management committee.
Administrator (Rituals), SJTA, Jitenrdra Sahu told reporters, “Regular screening and testing for servitor families will be taken up to ensure that cases of Covid-19 cases amongst them are detected at an early date and they are provided effective treatment. We will focus on vaccination of those servitors who are involved in daily seva-puja of the Lord Jagannath and those involved in the construction of the chariots. All preparations for construction of the chariots will continue as per traditions.”
In order to provide quick treatment to the servitors, the temple administration has decided to convert its lodge- Niladri Bhakta Nivas as Covid care centre. “In case a servitor’s condition worsens due to Covid-19 despite the treatment given at the Bhakta Nivas by doctors and nurses, the concerned servitors will be shifted to Bhubaneswar for treatment. The Administrator (Development) of SJTA will act as the nodal officer and ensure all help to the servitor’s family,” Sahu said.
The SJTA will take a call on whether it would extend the lock down of the shrine for the devotees further at its next meeting on May 6 keeping in mind the condition of the corona pandemic at that time, officials maintained.
Meanwhile, Puri police on Saturday raided different hotels and lodging houses in the city to ensure that people already staying in them have their RT-PCR tests done. The crackdown followed reports of triple mutant variant of Covid-19 virus being found among the people of Bengal who visit Puri in large numbers.
The Odisha government had already announced that people coming from Bengal need to undergo mandatory 14-day quarantine.
Meanwhile, the death toll in Odisha reached 1981 with reported death of another eight persons during last 24 hours.
“Regret to inform the demise of eight number of Covid positive patients while under treatment in hospitals,” tweeted Odisha health and family welfare department. The number of corona cases in the state reached 4,01,341 with detection of new 6,647 cases.
In order to break the chain, the weekend shut down began in all the urban areas of state, including Puri from Saturday.