The Andhra Pradesh government will conduct random tests on asymptomatic devotees arriving at the famous Tirumala temple as well as employees of the shrine on a daily basis.
At a recent meeting with the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) board that manages the temple, the District Collector had suggested random testing of samples needs to be done in Tirumala as a precautionary measure amid the coronavirus spread.
Tirumala, one of the richest temples in India, opened its doors to devotees on Thursday after conducting a trial run for three days, which included allowing only employees and people residing in nearby areas. The temple was shut for almost 82 days since the beginning of the lockdown.
About 400 random samples, which include 200 samples of devotees and rest from employees, will be collected every day.
The temple board has set up thermal scanners at points such as Alipiri, which is the entrance to Tirumala and a foothill point used by devotees to trek uphill. Swab samples will be collected from these points from asymptomatic people.
“100 random samples will be taken from Alipiri and another 100 from the unit on the hills. We’re screening pilgrims and those who are symptomatic are being tested already. However, the Collector has said random samples will also be collected and tested from now on,” Anil Kumar Singhal, Executive Officer TTD, told News18.
The samples are sent to Sri Venkateshwara Medical Sciences in Tirupati and results are expected in 6-8 hours. If a devotee tests positive, they will be taken to the nodal Covid-19 hospital in Tirupati.
According to officials, the focus will be more on devotees coming from high incidence areas such as Tamil Nadu and also on districts within the state with high number of cases.
As part of precautionary measures, there are markings done inside the temple to ensure physical distancing, wearing of masks is compulsory, and sanitizing at regular intervals is encouraged.
TTD is currently allowing only 6,000 devotees per day to visit the temple. Tickets can be purchased online as well as at a counter in Alipiri.
Meanwhile, Sri Govindaraja Swamy Temple in Tirupati was closed on Friday after one of its staff tested positive. It will reopen on June 14 after sanitization.
According to the TTD board, a sanitization department inspector got infected with coronavirus.