Amid worsening Covid-19 situation in the country, the Niranjani Akhada has announced to curtail the ongoing Kumbh Mela at Haridwar. The religious congregation has emerged as a Covid-19 hotspot where millions are flocking to participate in the event.
The Niranjani Akhada on Thursday said that the Kumbh Mela will end on Saturday (April 17), almost two weeks before from the schedule. The event kicked-off on April 1 and was slated for culmination on April 30.
Notably, after several seers tested positive for Covid-19 and many showing symptoms, Ravindra Puri, secretary, Niranjani Akhada, said that the event will conclude on Saturday.
"After reviewing the current Covid-19 situation in our camps where several seers and devotees have tested positive, the Akhara has decided to culminate Kumbh Mela on April 17."
Puri, however, said that the state government will take a final call with regard to the culmination of Kumbh Mela.
Hardiwar is currently witnessing a jump in Covid-19 cases. The city recorded more than 600 positive cases on Wednesday and more 500 on Tuesday, forcing the authorities to impose strict restrictions to flatten the curve. While the first Shahi Snan took place on the occasion of Maha Shivratri on March 11, the second and third took place on April 12 (Somwati Amavasya) and April 14 (Mesh Sankranti).
As per reports, over 1,700 people have been tested positive in the area of Kumbh Mela in Haridwar. Kumbh Mela is organised on Ganga ghats here after every 12 years. It is the world's largest religious gatherings.
"The numbers include both Reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) and Rapid Antigen Test reports of devotees, saints and seers of different akharas (ascetic groups) over the five-day period in the entire Mela Kshetra (area) extending from Haridwar to Devprayag," Haridwar Chief Medical Officer (CMO) Dr Shambhu Kumar Jha said.
"30 Sadhus have tested positive for COVID-19 so far, in Haridwar. Medical teams are going to akharas and RT-PCR tests of sadhus are being done continuously. The process will be further quickened from 17th April," Jha told ANI.
Medical workers conducted 2,36,751 tests over the five-day period in the mela area.
In another related development, news agency ANI reported that Kumbh Mela will not be curtailed and it will end on April 30, concerned officials said.
Lakhs of people participated in the last two royal baths (Shahi Snan) which were held last week. Devotees were seen flouting COVID-19 rules like not wearing face masks and maintaining proper social distancing.
Kumbh Mela Inspector General (IG) Sanjay Gunjyal said that they are appealing to people to follow COVID-appropriate behaviour but it is difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats. He added that a stampede-like situation may arise if they would try to enforce physical distancing.