Raising daily cap on number of pilgrims in Sabarimala from 2,000 to 5,000 would increase risk of COVID-19: Kerala government moves Supreme Court

Raising daily cap on number of pilgrims in Sabarimala from 2,000 to 5,000 would increase risk of COVID-19: Kerala government moves Supreme Court

The petition stated that 51 pilgrims and 248 staff at Sabarimala were tested positive for Covid-19 as on December 14.

The Kerala government has approached the Supreme Court challenging an order of the Kerala High Court which had directed the State government to raise the permissible limit of worshippers at Sabarimala temple from 2,000 to 5,000 per day.

The government, in its plea, has stated that the directions by the High Court go against the Revised Health Advisory issued by the government to contain Covid-19.

The petition states that the State government had constituted a High Level Committee to consider all aspects and to fix the number of pilgrims who can be permitted per day to visit the temple during December 20 and January 14 (pilgrimage season) taking into account the Covid situation.

The High Level Committee headed by the Chief Secretary of the State government considered the report submitted by Revised Health Advisory of the Health and Family Welfare Department and enhanced the number of pilgrims per day to 2,000 on weekdays and 3,000 on weekends respectively.

The plea states that Revised Health Advisory on the Sabarimala Pilgrimage submitted by the Principal Secretary of Health and Family Welfare Department revealed that 51 pilgrims and 248 staff at Sabarimala were tested positive as on December 14. The High Level Committee of the government had accepted the Revised Health Advisory taking into account this fact.

However, the Kerala High Court, on December 18, raised the number of worshippers to be allowed inside the temple from 2,000 to 5,000.

Raising daily cap on number of pilgrims in Sabarimala from 2,000 to 5,000 would increase risk of COVID-19: Kerala government moves Supreme Court
Kerala High Court raises cap on number of devotees allowed to enter Sabarimala to 5,000 per day

Raising the number of permissible pilgrims will put the police personnel and health officials at Sabarimala under great strain, the government has contended.

"Entry to the temple is controlled by virtual queue managed by the police personals and pilgrims are tested for Covid-19 before allowing them to enter the temple. Increase in the number of pilgrims will put the police personal and the officials of the health department in great strain and difficulty in controlling the pilgrims of this magnitude," the petition states.

The appeal in the Supreme Court also cites the discovery of the stronger mutant version of COVID-19 in England and has, therefore, prayed that the Kerala High Court order needs to be set aside to prevent the spread of Coronavirus during Sabarimala festival season.

It has been further averred that transportation of the pilgrims from the KSRTC Bus stand at Pamba to Sannidhanam is also a problem considering the Covid-19 protocol which mandates social distancing.

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