Thiruvananthapuram: The Travancore Devaswom Board is contemplating mandatory antigen tests for pilgrims before they begin their climb to Sanidhanam during Mandala pilgrimage season beginning from November 15.
The Devaswom Board is tying up with the state health department for conducting the antigen tests at Nilakkal. According to plan, only those who test negative would be allowed to trek to Sannidhanam. The final decision will be taken at the meeting to be chaired by the chief minister.
In view of the present Covid – 19 situation in the state, the health department has decided to scale up medical facilities at Sannidhanam, Nilakkal and Pamba. The government is planning to take over Amritha Hospital in the area for arranging emergency medical facilities for the devotees.
The devaswom board wants to ensure that only 50 people are allowed in Sannidhanam at a time. The pilgrimage will be strictly through the virtual queue system of the state police.
Earlier the board had planned to allow devotees who produce Covid negative certificates obtained a few days before the pilgrimage. Since the journey from their respective places to Sabarimala could take three to four days, the possibility of the pilgrims getting infected during transit cannot be ruled out. Moreover, it will be difficult for the authorities here to validate the authenticity of all Covid negative certificates issued to pilgrims in other states.
The board believes that under these circumstances mandatory antigen test will be more effective.
The logistics of antigen testing including how many people would be subjected to test per day, would be decided by authorities in consultation with health experts.
The Devaswom board and the state government have decided to conduct the Sabarimala pilgrimage this season in strict compliance with the Covid 19 protocol and safety protocol. Social distancing norms and safety protocols will be complied with while allowing darshan at the sanctum sanctorum. Police personnel will not be deployed on the pathinettam padi (holy steps) to assist the pilgrims.
With majority of the pilgrims coming from outside the state, the Kerala government and Devaswom Board will also seek the assistance of neighboring states to ensure Covid-19 protocol is implemented strictly....