While the threat of coronavirus has kept people across the country away from crowded places, one location where the numbers is increasing every day is the Balaji Temple at Tirumala, Andhra Pradesh. Tirupati Tirumala Devasthanam (TTD) has appealed to NRIs and foreigners to postpone their pilgrimage to Tirumala for 28 days from the day they entered India.
The number of pilgrims visiting the shrine at Tirumala hill rose by 7.5 per cent to over 61,652 on March 12 from 57,352 on March 11. Meanwhile TTD, which manages the temple, is taking measurers to check the impact of coronavirus.
The good news is that the current inflow to Tirumala is lower than 83,521 recorded on March 1, largely due to the board exams in neighbouring Tamil Nadu.
According to TTD, a total of 61,652 pilgrims had darshan on March 12 after waiting for nearly five hours, as compared to 57,352 on March 11 (after an 8-hour wait). Last month, on the same day, about 61,860 pilgrims had Darshan.
The virus has been spreading across the World since February. People have been advised to avoid public places, and companies have asked employees to work from home.
Pilgrims usually wait for anything between three hours and 10 hours for darshan.
TTD's Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal said the Devasthanam rolled out effective measures to check the impact of Coronavirus.
Coronavirus Awareness and Counselling Centre at Alipiri Check Point was sent up as part of state and central government initiatives against the spread of the pathogen.
Coronavirus prevention camps have been set up with thermal scanning testing at Alipiri check point, near Padala mandapam (hall) at Alipiri footpath route and also at Srivari mettu footpath route.
“If any symptoms are identified, the pilgrim will be stopped from entering Tirumala and diverted to isolation wards at Ruia hospital for medication," Singhal added.
The EO said special focus has been laid on sanitation. Cleaning is taken up every two hours at specific locations where pilgrim congregation is higher, such as Anna Prasadam complex (where food is served for free), and Vaikuntam queue complex (where people wait to have darshan).
TTD also has provided the option of changing dates or refund on cancellation for devotees holding arjitha seva (paid darshan) and accommodation that are booked in advance till May 31.
In view of Centre not issuing visas to foreigners till April 15, TTD has also appealed to both NRIs and foreigners to postpone their pilgrimage to Tirumala for 28 days from the day they entered India.
The Padmavati Nilayam at Tiruchanoor on the foothills of Tirumala has been allowed to be used as an isolation ward. If needed the TTD choultries near Tirupati railway station will also be used for this purpose.
The TTD EO said 100,00 handbills are being distributed every day and non-stop broadcast of precautionary steps are being arranged throughout the day for the awareness of the pilgrims.
As a matter of abundant precaution, only 250 devotees are to be allowed in each compartment of Vaikuntham Queue Complex as against the usual 450-500.
Special precautionary steps for devotees are being telecast through SVBC channel in waiting compartments and other platforms and health and medical departments of TTD are fully equipped with all emergency materials, he noted.