Haridwar: Coronavirus norms ignored in Kumbh Mela, 102 test positive
As coronavirus infections soar in India, lakhs of devotees took a dip in the Holy Ganges on Monday's shahi snan of Kumbh Mela, which is being held in Haridwar, Uttarakhand. With thousands coming from the length and breadth of the nation, the administration struggled to impose basic preventive measures, like thermal screening, to stem the spread of the disease. By last evening, 102 devotees had tested positive.
Even those who didn't have COVID-19 test report weren't stopped
Though Uttarakhand High Court had earlier said that all devotees would have to furnish a negative RT-PCR test report before entering the Mela, a report in The Indian Express revealed that the picture on the ground was entirely different. At least 15 people were allowed to proceed toward the ghats despite not having the necessary report. Some devotees revealed no one checked their reports.
No thermal screening was done, said a devotee
"Our RT-PCR report was checked at the Narsan checkpoint along the Uttar Pradesh border. No one asked for it in the Mela area. No thermal screening was done," said Raj Pratap Singh, a government teacher from Madhya Pradesh who arrived in Haridwar via car.
'No one asked about the RT-PCR report'
Another devotee, Pramod Sharma from Jammu, reached without the report. He told that those bound for the religious city were directed to deboard at Jwalapur railway station, some three kilometer away. "But there were a lot of passengers, and no one asked about the RT-PCR report. Later, we took a bath in the Ganga at the Gau ghat. There was no thermal screening anywhere," he said.
Those not wearing masks were also not penalized
Despite AI-enabled cameras being introduced to zero in on those not wearing masks, no considerable action was taken against offenders, the daily added. Just yesterday, Sanjay Gunjyal, Inspector-General of Police, Haridwar Kumbh Mela, had admitted, "Due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats."
Notably, merely 11 people were tested in six hours
The administration also conducted few coronavirus tests. A team of two medical personnel with Rapid Antigen Test kits was stationed at Har Ki Paudi, a revered place for Hindus, to test the members of akharas. Starting from 9 am on Monday, they conducted merely 11 tests in six hours; one tested positive. "Those who came to get tested did so voluntarily," an official said.
Coronavirus in-charge admitted that screening wasn't done
The Mela's coronavirus in-charge Dr. Avinash Khanna said, "Thermal screening and rapid antigen tests were done at the state borders, railway stations, and ghat areas. The ghats were reserved for the akharas today morning, and so tests and screening were not done." Another official claimed that they were more focused on crowd management, hence thermal screening and checking of reports at ghats "were avoided."