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Mahakumbh shoots up Covid superspreader concerns as 5 crore pilgrims set to congregate


DEHRADUN: With 500 cases surfacing on Thursday, the day Mahakumbh started, there are fears that the religious congregation may become a 'Superspreader' event if requisite measures are not in place. 

On Friday, a total of 364 cases surfaced taking the tally of active cases in the state to 2404. 

Anoop Nautiyal, whose Social Development for Communities Foundation has been analysing the Covid data since March 2020 when the first case of Covid surfaced in Uttarakhand, says: "This is a collective responsibility of the government, people, as well as the pilgrims visiting the Mahakumbh to ensure that the most esteemed religious congregation does not become a 'Superspreader' event. Increase testing, practise safety measures and vaccinate as much people as possible to avoid getting back to bad Covid situation." 

Amit Negi, State Health Secretary said, "We in Uttarakhand have the rate of testing at 24.75% against the national percentage rate of 18.41%. We have vaccinated around 40% of people who are 60 years or above. Every step is being taken to ensure check Covid spread."

Meanwhile, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat held a Covid review meeting and instructed the officials to strengthen safety measures, increase testing, and website that the Covid situation is under control.

"Every arrangement is at the place to check the spread of Covid and make the Mahakumbh a grand and successful. Families and safety measures for pilgrims and other people are in place," said the CM. 

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Uttarakhand High Court has already directed to increase the number of testing in Haridwar to a minimum of 50,000 per day instead of 5,000 at present in the wake of Mahakumbh. 

"Until and unless a larger section of the population is tested for the presence of coronavirus, it would be impossible to detect the spread of the disease," the court remarked in its order dated Match 31, 2021. 

Again, according to estimates, over 1 crore devotees may visit Haridwar on April 14, which is also the day of the Baisakhi festival. Officials say over 2 crore devotees may visit Haridwar between April 11 and April 14. Earlier estimates said only 50-60 lakh people will congregate for the Haridwar event. 

Over 5 crore pilgrims are expected to participate in the event which spans over months. More than 100 drones will be monitoring the congregation round the clock along with 1500 CCTVs. 

The first royal bath was on March 11, 2021 (Mahashivratri), the second one is on April 12 (Somwati Amavasya), the third on April 14 (Baisakhi Kumbh snan), and the fourth on April 27 (Chaitra Purnima).  Other important baths will take place on the occasion of April 13 (Nav Samvatsar) and April 21 (Ram Navami).