Amid a huge surge in the COVID-19 cases reported, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday made an appeal to call of the Kumbh Mela noting that it would strengthen the ongoing fight against the Coronavirus pandemic. PM Modi's appeal comes amid an alarming increase in the number of cases reported throughout India and after over 1700 persons who attended the Kumbh Mela have tested positive between April 10 and April 14. Making his appeal, PM Modi informed that he had spoken to Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Pujya Swami Awadheshanand Giriji to enquire about the health of the saints and thanked them for providing support to the administration. PM Modi noted that two rounds of 'Shahi snans' had already been completed and appealed for the Kumbh Mela to be observed 'symbolically' as it would strengthen India's resolve in its fight against COVID-19.
"I spoke to Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Pujya Swami Awadheshanand Giri ji on the phone today to know about the health of all saints. All the saints are giving all kinds of support to the administration. I thanked the saint world for this. I have prayed that two royal baths have taken place and that the Kumbh be kept symbolic due to the Corona crisis. This will give strength to the fight against this crisis", wrote PM Modi, making an appeal to call of the Kumbh Mela.
आचार्य महामंडलेश्वर पूज्य स्वामी अवधेशानंद गिरि जी से आज फोन पर बात की। सभी संतों के स्वास्थ्य का हाल जाना। सभी संतगण प्रशासन को हर प्रकार का सहयोग कर रहे हैं। मैंने इसके लिए संत जगत का आभार व्यक्त किया।— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 17, 2021
मैंने प्रार्थना की है कि दो शाही स्नान हो चुके हैं और अब कुंभ को कोरोना के संकट के चलते प्रतीकात्मक ही रखा जाए। इससे इस संकट से लड़ाई को एक ताकत मिलेगी। @AvdheshanandG— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) April 17, 2021
Acharya Mahamandaleshwar Pujya Swami Awadheshanand urged devotees to not come in large numbers for the 'snan' and said that they were honouring the call of PM Modi to call of the Kumbh Mela. The saint urged people to follow COVID protocols and said that protecting lives was a great virtue.
माननीय प्रधानमंत्री जी के आह्वान का हम सम्मान करते हैं ! जीवन की रक्षा महत पुण्य है।मेरा धर्म परायण जनता से आग्रह है कि कोविड की परिस्थितियों को देखते हुए भारी संख्या में स्नान के लिए न आएँ एवं नियमों का निर्वहन करें ! @narendramodi @AmitShah @TIRATHSRAWAT #KumbhMela2021 #कुम्भ https://t.co/dNjPPnDztQ— Swami Avdheshanand (@AvdheshanandG) April 17, 2021
Maha Nirvani Akhada's chief Swami Kapil Dev on Friday, passed away while undergoing treatment for COVID-19 at a private hospital in Dehradun. Moreover, 30 monks have already tested COVID positive while RT-PCR reports of 200 others are yet to be received. Niranjani Akhada's secretary Ravindra Puri, who has declared Kumbh's end on April 17 too has contracted COVID-19 and has been isolated.
On Thursday, Niranjani Akhada announced the end of the Kumbh Mela on April 17. With several saints testing positive for COVID-19, Niranjani Akhada secretary Ravindra Puri announced that after the completion of the third 'shahi snan', many devotees and saints have started displaying symptoms of COVID-19. Urging other Akhadas to follow the same, Puri clarified that this was only Niranjani Akhada's decision to end the Kumbh and not the state government's.
A total of 1,701 people have tested positive for COVID-19 in the Haridwar Kumbh Mela area from April 10 to 14 confirming fears that one of the world's largest religious gatherings may contribute further to the rapid rise in coronavirus cases. The numbers include both RT-PCR and Rapid Antigen Test reports of devotees and seers of different akharas (ascetic groups) over the five-day period in the entire Mela Kshetra extending from Haridwar to Devprayag, Haridwar Chief Medical Officer Shambhu Kumar Jha said. Medical workers conducted 2,36,751 tests over the five-day period in the mela site. Officials have ruled out cutting short the Kumbh Mela, which is set to last till April 30.
A majority of the 48.51 lakh people who took part in the last two royal baths (Shahi Snan) held on the occasion of Somwati Amavasya on April 12 and Mesh Sankranti on April 14 were seen openly violating COVID norms like wearing of face masks and social distancing. Despite their best efforts, the police could not impose the standard operating procedures (SOPs) on the seers of akharas and the ash-smeared ascetics thronging Har Ki Pairi ghat on the two major bathing days due to severe time constraints. As seers were averse to undergoing RT-PCR tests till the Mesh Sankranti Shahi Snan of April 14, both testing and inoculation in the Kumbh Kshetra including the areas allocated to the akharas are likely to be stepped up in the coming days, Jha said.
Uttarakhand CM Tirath Singh Rawat slammed comparisons between Kumbha and the Markaz event which has been a superspreader event, requesting all devotees to wear masks and adhere to all social distancing guidelines. Kumbh Mela IG Sanjay Gunjyal said that they are continuously appealing to people to follow COVID-19 appropriate behaviour but it is difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats. The IG added that a stampede-like situation may arise if they would try to enforce social distancing.