Even as coronavirus cases in the country has risen up to 169, the district administration in Uttar Pradesh's Ayodhya is gearing up to hold mega Ram Navami mela (fair). The mela, draws lakhs of pilgrims from across the country, will be held from 25 March to 2 April. This comes amid concerns expressed by many including the chief medical officer of Ayodhya about the health risk posed by a large congregation of 10 lakh devotees.
District Magistrate Anuj Kumar Jha told news agency PTI that the Uttar Pradesh government has notified the Epidemic Act and the district administration is being empowered to take all steps to stop coronavirus. Jha said the administration has printed 50,000 posters highlighting precautions against coronavirus and these are being pasted at public places. He added that the district administration is all prepared for the Ram Navami celebrations according to practice and will adopt all precautionary measures.
Meanwhile, the Chief Medical Officer of Ayodhya Ghanshyam Singh had advised that the Ram Navami mela be cancelled to save the public from coronavirus. Dr Vikasendu Agrawal, nodal officer of coronavirus, said mass gatherings are impossible and risky once the Epidemic Act is invoked.
"We have closed down shopping malls, cinema halls, swimming pools, gyms and schools in the state. It is very difficult to ensure that devotees wear masks or maintain a distance of 1.5 m from each other. It''s an impossible proposition," he said, adding he will talk to senior state government officials. "We will review the situation on March 22 and if the situation remains the same then I would suggest the government to avoid the gathering," he added.
Reacting to these suggestions, Ayodhya MLA Ved Gupta said, "We can't stop the devotees. They would be advised to wear masks and maintain a distance while conducting rituals." According to sources, the functionaries engaged with organising the mela feel it is impossible to screen lakhs of devotees.
The novel coronavirus cases in India rose to 169 on Thursday after 18 fresh cases were reported from various parts of the country, according to the Health Ministry. The cases include 25 foreign nationals -- 17 from Italy, 3 from the Philippines, two from the UK, one each belonging to Canada, Indonesia and Singapore. The figure also includes three deaths reported from Delhi, Karnataka and Maharashtra so far.
Maharashtra has highest number of cases - 45 cases, including three foreigners, while Kerala has recorded 27 cases which include two foreign nationals. Delhi has, so far, reported 12 positive cases which include one foreigner, while Uttar Pradesh has recorded 17 cases, including one foreigner. Karnataka has 14 coronavirus patients. The number of cases in Ladakh rose to eight and Jammu and Kashmir four. Telangana has reported six cases which include two foreigners. In Haryana, there are 17 cases, which include 14 foreigners. Rajasthan has also reported seven cases including that of two foreigners. Tamil Nadu has two cases so far. Andhra Pradesh, Odisha, Uttarakhand, West Bengal, Pondicherry, Chandigarh and Punjab have reported one case each.
(with PTI inputs)