Covid19 in Andhra Pradesh: No Tirupati Balaji darshan from tomorrow

The daily rituals in all these temples will, however, be performed by the priests

Amaravati (AP): The famous hill shrine of Lord Venkateswara in Tirumala and all other major temples will be out of bounds for devotees while malls and cinema halls to be shut in Andhra Pradesh till March 31 to check the spread of coronavirus, the state government announced on Thursday.

The restrictions would come into force from Friday, Deputy Chief Minister for Medical and Health A K K Srinivas (Nani) said briefing reporters here after a high-level meeting on COVID-19, chaired by Chief Minister Y S Jagan Mohan Reddy.

The daily rituals in all these temples will, however, be performed by the priests. Only the devotees will not be allowed, he said.

A report from Tirupati said all routes, including the stairway, leading to Tirumala have been sealed from Thursday evening itself to stop pilgrims inflow.

The devotees who have already reached the hills alone would be allowed to the shrine till the forenoon on Friday, Executive Officer of the Tirumala Tirupati Devathanams (TTD), that governs the over 2,000-year old shrine, Anil Kumar Singhal told reporters in Tirumala. He said this would be the first time in recent history that the temple would be closed for devotees for over a week.

Besides the cash-rich Lord Venkateswara temple near Tirupati thronged by devotees from across the country, others that would be barred for pilgrims' entry include the Kanaka Durga shrine in Vijayawada, Srisailam (Lord Shiva), Annavaram (Satyanarayana Swamy) and Kanipakam (Vinayaka).

Similarly, major places of worship of other religions would also be closed, the Deputy Chief Minister said. Andhra Pradesh is the latest to join a number of states, including Kerala, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, that have announced a virutal lockdown and the announcement came on the day when it reported its second positive case of coronavirus.

Srinivas said the government took this decision to check the spread of the dreaded virus though relatively the incidence of COVID-19 was low in Andhra Pradesh.

Malls and cinema halls would be closed down while bars and restaurants were being asked to maintain social distancing, he said.

The government suggested that IT professionals could work from home. The Deputy CM asked the people to cooperate with the government in COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Srinivas suggested that people put off marriages and other functions to avoid large gatherings. Otherwise, ensure that the gathering is not large, he added.

The TTD official said the temple would be closed for devotees from the afternoon on Friday.

The temple doors would be partly shut to facilitate entry of the high priests and his attendants and conduct of all daily rituals without participation of devotees, he added.

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