Kerala’s Padmanabhaswamy temple has been temporarily closed for devotees till October 15 as 12 staff members, including 10 priests, have tested COVID-19 positive.
“Daily pujas will be done by the ‘tantri’, but no ‘darshan’ will be allowed,” Padmanabhaswamy temple’s executive officer Ratheeshan IAS said. The ‘tantri’ usually presides over only special ceremonies, but he will fill in now because both the chief priests have COVID-19.
“The decision came after two chief priests, eight sub-priests and two guards at the temple tested corona positive. They all were asymptomatic,” Ratheeshan added.
The temple opened its doors for devotees on August 26, with some restrictions, after remaining closed for the public since March-end.
Besides compulsory wearing of masks, hand sanitisation and social distancing, the temple has restricted the number of devotees allowed per day and during specific time slots in the morning and evening. Devotees are also not allowed to touch the idol, walls or any other surfaces.
The devotees were allowed in from 8 am to 11 am and 5 pm till the time of Deeparadhana in the evening. Devotees were told to register online a day ahead of ‘darshan’ and keep a copy of registration form and Aadhaar card at the time of the temple visit.
Only 35 devotees were allowed inside the temple at a time and only 665 people were allowed to enter the temple for darshan in a day.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on June 30 had allowed places of worship and religious places to reopen from June 8 onwards.
As per the ministry’s guidelines people above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home and avoid visiting places of worship.
The temporary closure comes in the backdrop of a surge in coronavirus cases in Kerala where 2.58 lakh people have been infected till now and 930 have died.
The spike has led to re-imposition of many curbs on movement and gatherings. In Thiruvananthapuram, large gatherings have been banned till October 31.
India now has a total of 69 lakh coronavirus cases.
For three weeks, the number of new recoveries across the country has exceeded new cases, which have declined steadily over this span, the Health Ministry has said. But health experts warn of a sharp spike in cases in some parts of the country ahead of the festival season and winter months.