COVID-19: Pressure mounts on TTD to suspend pilgrim worship

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After 140 employees of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) tested positive for Covid-19 since the reopening of the temple on June 11, demand for its closure is gaining strength.

However, TTD chairman YV Subba Reddy has rejected the demand, saying that temple authorities have taken steps to prevent the spread of the virus. He that they had limited the number of pilgrims to 12, 000 a day.

Fourteen temple priests, 60 police personnel and 16 potu workers engaged in the preparation of laddu prasadams are among the 140 infected by the novel coronavirus. Half of them have recovered and have rejoined duties, while the rest are undergoing treatment.

The condition of one employee, who reportedly has comorbidity issues, is critical. He has been admitted to the ICU at Sri Venkateswara Institute of Medical Sciences, according to Times of India report.

Medical and religious experts have termed the TTE authority’s decision very dangerous. They have urged the temple body to reconsider its decision in view of rising Covid cases among staffers working at Tirumala.

Dr Krishna Prasanthi, vice chairperson of the association of physicians of India, AP Chapter, said that the tests currently being done was not sufficient to get a clear picture of the real covid situation in the pilgrim centre. He pointed out that the number of Covid tests on devotees tested is less than 0.30% of the overall pilgrim footfall.

He said that out of 2,50,176 devotees who worshipped at the Tirumala temple in the first month after it reopened, only about 631 Covid-19 tests were carried out on devotees till July 10 which is very paltry.

“This doesn't give a clear picture whether all the devotees who visited Tirumala were Covid negative. And with a majority of Covid positive cases being reported in the state today being asymptomatic cases, it is really difficult to identify and isolate suspects from among such a large number of visiting devotees daily. Ideally, TTD should consider suspending pilgrim worship for at least two weeks till Covid scenario improves as protecting its own employees apart from the devotees should be a top priority for the TTD'', Dr Krishna Prasanthi was quoted by TOI as saying.

Temple protection movement convener Chilkur Rangarajan also favours closure of the temple till the virus infection is contained. He  felt that now was the time for the TTD management to take a call on suspending pilgrim worship without affecting the daily/weekly rituals at the Tirumala temple as Covid cases are spiking all over the country.

''I personally visited Tirumala after the temple reopened and saw that TTD made the best of arrangements to tackle Covid-19. But today, many employees and priests working at Tirumala have tested positive despite the best arrangements in place. As such, in the interests of all including devotees, employees and priests, TTD should review the Covid scenario and take a call. Rituals to be performed to the presiding deity could be affected if more priests get infected with the novel coronavirus'', felt TPM convener Chilkur Rangarajan was quoted by TOI.

TTD's agama advisor and honorary chief priest Dr AV Ramana Deekshitulu urged Chief minister YS Jaganmohan Reddy to intervene and take action in the Tirumala issue.

Image Credit: The Hindu

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