THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: The district health authorities’ recommendation that RT-PCR tests be made compulsory for devotees visiting Attukal temple during the 10-day pongala festival 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. 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.
Authorities of the trust said more discussions will be held with the collector before the festival begins, to streamline the flow of devotees and effectively manage crowding inside the temple and on its premises.
“The festival will be conducted in strict compliance to Covid-19 protocol. There will be thermal scanners to check the temperature of devotees,” said trust president B Anil Kumar.
Deputy collector (disaster management) G K Suresh Kumar told TNIE that this year, the temple authorities are not holding any rituals involving the public. “The government has directed the temple authorities to ensure that not more than 200 people gather on temple premises.
They have to ensure these protocols are being followed strictly during the festival. They should also make arrangements to ensure that thermal screening of devotees is done and social distancing is maintained during the festival,” he said. Indian Medical Association core committee member N Sulphi said as the festival being a planned one, the government should make effective interventions to ensure it is held in compliance with Covid protocol.
Attukal temple festival to begin on Friday
T’Puram: The 10-day-long annual pongala festival at Attukal Bhagavathy Temple will begin here on Friday strictly complying with Covid-19 protocol. The Temple Trust authorities told reporters here that all ceremonies at the temple would be held in a low-key manner as per rituals. The popular pongala offering will be held at 10.50 am on February 27 and this year the ritual is confined to the temple premises and at the houses of the devotees. The temple trust has urged the devotees not to offer pongala at public places due to the pandemic threat. Actor Nedumudi Venu has been chosen for this year’s Attukal Amba Award instituted by the Attukal Bhagavathy Temple Trust.