With the improvement in the COVID-19 situation, world heritage sites of Ajanta and Ellora Caves along with three other historical monuments in Aurangabad district of Maharashtra will reopen for tourists from Thursday after remaining shut for more than three months, an official said on Wednesday. The district administration has capped the number of tourists visiting each of these five monuments, including Bibi-Ka-Maqbara, Aurangabad Caves, and Daulatabad Fort, to 2,000 in two sessions per day in the morning and afternoon.
Booking of tickets will be allowed online and tourists are expected to follow the pandemic guidelines. Given a steady decline in the number of coronavirus positive cases, the Archaeological Survey of India had announced the reopening of all Centrally protected monuments, sites and museums from Wednesday.
“Following the orders of the ASI, Aurangabad district Disaster and Management Authority (DDMA) chief and district collector Sunil Chavan has given a green signal to reopen the tourist spots in Aurangabad from June 17 as the cases dipped," the official told reporters. However, temples and other religious places under the jurisdiction of the ASI will continue to remain shut in the Aurangabad district.
The official said the COVID-19 case positivity rate in Aurangabad city has come down to 0.45 per cent whereas the same is 4.27 per cent in rural areas of the district. The current oxygen bed occupancy rate in the district, which has 1,438 active cases, is 10.80 per cent.
“We reviewed the tourist footfall at the above five monuments and also the case positivity rate. These monuments will reopen for tourists from June 17. Booking of the ticket shall remain online. Guides and others working near these monuments will have to undergo RT-PCR tests in the coming days. However, this test is not mandatory for those who are fully vaccinated," the collector said in a video.
On the parameters of the case positivity rate and occupancy of oxygen beds, Aurangabad city falls under Level-1 of the five-level unlock plan of the state government allowing the maximum easing of curbs whereas rural areas fall under the level-2 category of limited restrictions.