Experts have cautioned against another superspreader event- Kawar Yatra, stating that the pilgrimage could be “five times more likely to be a superspreader than the Kumbh festival.” This comes after the Uttarakhand government is mulling to allow the annual Kanwar yatra.
The risk of spread of Covid-19 infection is higher in Kanwar yatra than it was at the Maha Kumbh mela as the number of devotees undertaking the yatra is likely to be significantly higher than those who attended Kumbh, Experts told the Times of India. The footfall for Kanwar yatra in the previous years has ranged between 2 crore and 5 crore.
“Even if standard operating procedures regarding Covid behaviour are put in place and the kanwar yatra allowed, the SOPs will be impossible to implement. We have seen that at the Kumbh and more recently when lockdown restrictions were eased and tourists flocked to hill stations,” Anoop Nautiyal, whose organisation Social Development for Communities Foundation has been tracking the Covid outbreak in the state said.
Kanwar yatra will be much more dangerous than Kumbh as about 3 to 4 crore pilgrims will visit Haridwar in a fortnight compared with the 70 lakh that came during the 30-day Kumbh, he added.
The state will not be able to handle the infection spread post-kanwar yatra and the decision must be taken cautiously as the fear of a third wave looms large. Nautiyal further added.
Dr NS Khatri, deputy medical superintendent and Covid care centre coordinator of the Doon Medical College Hospital- state’s largest Covid facility told TOI, “In an ideal situation it (the Kanwar yatra) should be avoided as Uttarakhand has already recorded its first Delta-plus case.”
Meanwhile, on Friday, Uttar Pradesh chief minister Yogi Adityanath directed the officials concerned to ensure strict compliance of the Covid protocol and safety of the Kanwar Yatra starting from July 25. The chief minister while reviewing the preparations and security arrangements for the Yatra asked for establishing a communication with the Kanwar sanghs in view of the Covid pandemic and to see to it that unnecessary crowds should not gather and proper caution is taken, the release issued here said.