BHUBANESWAR: As the Supreme Court directed that only persons found negative for COVID-19 will be allowed to pull the chariots, Health and Family Welfare department on Monday got on its toes to conduct the tests of servitors at Puri. At least 13 teams have been mobilised to collect the samples.
COVID test of around 800 servitors has already been conducted before the pronouncement of judgement, while 700 more will be tested before pulling of chariots on Tuesday, Additional Chief Secretary PK Mohapatra said.
“The servitors who performed Snana Purnima rituals and carpenters engaged in making of chariots were tested and allowed only after they were found negative. Similar steps have been taken for servitors who will pull the chariots,” he informed.
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Samples of servitors were collected in three phases and sent to Regional Medical Research Centre and Institutes of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar for tests. The Shree Jagannath Temple Administration and the Puri administration are hopeful of getting the test results as early as possible.
Since all tests would be conducted through RT-PCR and one cycle of test takes at least six to seven hours, the labs remained open throughout night for the purpose. The labs have been asked to submit the test reports by 5 am on Tuesday. As per the direction of the apex court, 500 persons, including officials and police will be allowed to pull each of the three chariots.
Policemen without any symptoms have been deployed for the Rath Yatra. They will be tested if any of them develops symptoms. Director of Health Services Dr Bijay Kumar Mohapatra has been deputed to Puri to monitor the health preparedness.
Meanwhile, elaborate arrangements have been made in Puri to ensure hygiene and sanitation. Apart from the additional deployment of doctors of various disciplines and para-medical staff, adequate number of ambulances has been deployed for the 12-day festival.