Govt not keen on RT-PCR test for Pongala attendees

As of now, there is no decision to ask devotees to get tested.

Published: 17th February 2021 06:48 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th February 2021 06:48 AM   |  A+A-

Covid testing, Coronavirus

Health worker collects the swab sample of a person for Covid testing .(File Photo | EPS)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The district health authorities’ recommendation that RT-PCR tests be made compulsory for devotees visiting Attukal temple during the 10-day pongala that starts on Friday has fallen on deaf ears, with the government deciding against making such an intervention. A senior official with the District Medical Office (DMO) said with assembly elections around the corner, the government is not very keen on insisting on strict Covid-19 protocol, including RT-PCR. 

As of now, there is no decision to ask devotees to get tested.This is the second pongala festival since the pandemic outbreak last year. Though the temple authorities have decided to restrict the festivities within the temple premises, thousands of devotees — 5,000 on an average, as per the Attukal Bhagavati Temple Trust — from across the state and the country are expected to visit the temple daily during the festival.

Health authorities said it would have been ideal if the government insisted on RT-PCR on the lines of Sabarimala and restricted the number of visitors. “There is definitely going to be crowding in and around the temple premises. Strict screening of devotees needs to be done. This is a planned festival. The government had the willpower to enforce virtual queues and RT-PCR for devotees visiting Sabarimala temple as well as restrict the number of pilgrims,” said the official from the DMO.

“In a meeting, we urged the district collector and temple authorities to consider making RT-PCR mandatory for devotees. The temple authorities said they will respond after further discussions. We are yet to get a response,” said the official.  

The official said the temple authorities are organising stage events which will also draw more crowd. “We have just started administering vaccination and people need to realise that the pandemic threat is still there. It would take at least three to six months for the vaccine to reach the general population. We are expecting people from other districts and even from other states during the festival,” said the official.  


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