With only one day left for the opening of Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple to observe the annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, the Kerala government said elaborate arrangements have been made to ensure that no Covid-19 patient is able to enter the hill shrine for the pilgrimage.
The entire pilgrimage would be through the virtual queue system this time, so the usual heavy rush can be regulated, Devaswom Minister Kadakampally Surendran said after a high level meeting of officials was conducted to review the final preparations at the temple on Friday.
Detailing various measures taken by the government to ensure a smooth pilgrimage in the wake of the pandemic, Surendran said each pilgrim, visiting the shrine, should carry a Covid-19 negative certificate, issued within the last 24 hours.
Covid-19 testing kiosks would be opened at Pampa and Nilakkal, the base camps, to help devotees take a test before beginning the pilgrimage. Apart from this, arrangements would be made by the health department to facilitate antigen tests in various centres including, all bus stands and railway stations at Thiruvananthapuram, Tiruvalla, Chengannur and Kottayam, where pilgrims arrive to proceed to the Lord Ayyappa temple, Surendran said.
To ensure social distancing during darshan, a specific place will be marked for each devotee, the minister said adding that those aged between 60-65 years should submit a medical fitness certificate.
Those testing positive for the viral infection, including those from other states, would be given adequate treatment, he added. Covid-19 treatment can be availed by pilgrims either in government or private hospitals. All arrangements including ambulance facilities have been ensured by the government medical colleges in Pathanamthitta and Kottayam and also in the private hospitals in these districts, he said.
Noting that mask was not mandatory for pilgrims while trekking, Surendran said the relaxation was according to the protocol that provided exemption during high physical activity, but added that devotees should follow strict Covid-19 protocols. Used masks should not be thrown away and arrangements would be made to collect and recycle them, official sources added.
The two-month-long annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku season at the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa Temple, located in Pathanamthitta district, would begin on November 16.