Over 14,000 devotees arrive in J&K for Vaishno Devi Yatra, 48 test Covid positive

Over 14,000 devotees have arrived in Jammu & Kashmir’s Katra to take part in the yatra to Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine during the Navratri festival, even as the country witnesses the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic. 48 devotees have tested positive on Day 1 of the festival.This comes even as India reported an all-time high of 1,84,372 new Covid-19 cases in the last 24 hours.DISTRICT ADMINISTRATION IMPOSES RESTRICTIONSThe district administration in Reasi and Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board has ordered strict implementation of the Covid-19 related guidelines.The shrine board has already fixed a maximum limit of 25,000 pilgrims per day. This is a rule which is in place for several months now.Last year, the yatra was suspended after the outbreak of the pandemic on March 16. However, after a five-month hiatus, the yatra resumed on August 16, but in a regulated manner.Initially, the shrine board had fixed a cap of 2,000 pilgrims per day. Later, as the situation improved, the ceiling was increased from time to time.As per the officials, about 14,000 pilgrims including J&K locals and outsider have paid obeisance at the holy shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi located on Trikuta hills on day 1 of theNavratri festival. However, the final figures are yet to be released by the authorities.As many as 48 pilgrims from outside J&K were found to be positive on day 1 of the festival till 5 pm.COVID NEGATIVE REPORT MANDATORYA Covid-19 negative report is mandatory for undertaking the yatra. Those pilgrims who are found to be positive are being isolated and sent to Covid care centres or paid quarantine facilities in hotels or their hometowns under strict Covid protocol.The pilgrims arriving from other states are being tested at Katra railway station, Jammu airport and Jammu railway station. Yatris travelling via road are being tested near the Punjab-J&K border at Lakhanpur in the Kathua district. Only those yatris who are found to be negative are being allowed to proceed.”Covid-19 related guidelines are being strictly followed. Pilgrims arriving from outside J&K are being tested at Katra railway station. Only those who test negative are being allowed to undertake the yatra. Positive cases are being isolated. We are giving three options to them. Either they can shift to government quarantine centre or paid quarantine facility in hotel. They can also return to their hometown in special paid cabs under strict Covid protocol”, Ashok Kumar, SDM, Katra told India Today.Yatris who are carrying Covid-19 negative reports not less than 72 hours old with them are also being allowed to perform the yatra.The local pilgrims from J&K are being tested at the ‘Darshini Deodi’ – the starting point of the yatra in Katra.Wearing masks is mandatory for all the pilgrims, employees of the shrine board, and the security staff.

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