Amarnath Yatra: SOPs for testing of persons entering J&K to be applicable to pilgrims

Arteev Sharma

Tribune News Service

Jammu, July 4

The J-K administration on Saturday said all pilgrims entering Jammu and Kashmir for undertaking this year’s Amarnath Yatra in South Kashmir Himalayas would undergo 100 per cent testing for COVID-19 and would be quarantined till they were reported to be negative.

The administration also said keeping in view the constraints of resources due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a maximum of 500 pilgrims would be allowed per day by road from Jammu to Kashmir.

Chief Secretary BVR Subrahmanyam, while chairing the meeting of the sub-committee constituted by the Supreme Court for Amarnath Yatra here, said all standard operating procedures (SoPs) for testing of persons entering Jammu and Kashmir would apply to yatris (pilgrims) as well.

The SoPs prescribe 100 per cent RT-PCR test for all persons travelling into Jammu and Kashmir.

“All entrants into J-K will have to be sampled, tested and quarantined till they are reported to be negative. Besides, social-distancing norms will further strain these holding capacities,” Subrahmanyam said.

The Chief Secretary observed that the camping facilities earlier utilised for pilgrims, especially at the entry points, were currently being utilised as quarantine centres.

“Keeping in view these circumstances, the Yatra this year will have to be undertaken in a restricted manner so that the SoPs for COVID-19 are strictly adhered to during the conduct of the Yatra,” Subrahmanyam said.

During the meeting, the Chief Secretary was briefed by the concerned departments in regard to the status of works, including up-gradation and improvement along the track from Baltal to the holy cave at Kali Mata and emergency exit track from Sangam, execution of works relating to stabilisation of hill slopes near the holy cave, installation of railings along critical stretches of the track, construction of additional helipads at lower holy cave and construction of sanitisation tunnels at Neelgrath Helipad, Baltal and Domel.

The Sources said only Baltal route was likely to be made operational for devotees headed to the holy cave shrine of Amarnath this year.

Due to the COVID-19 outbreak, a curtailed Amarnath yatra is likely to be held from July 21 to August 3.

The Financial Commissioner (Health) gave a brief in regard to the routine healthcare as also additional arrangements being made, keeping in view the present COVID-19 situation.

He was, however, concerned about the stress in the medical system because of the pilgrimage. Nine of the 10 Kashmir districts are in the red zone and the entire medical system was fully stretched in handling the challenge.

“No doctors will be available from outside J-K for the Yatra this year. Isolation facilities will have to be created to ensure any COVID-19 challenges are addressed on an emergent basis at the camp itself. Also, COVID-19 and high-altitude sickness symptoms are quite similar and all cases will have to be treated as deemed COVID-19 positive in case of an emergency. Also, special arrangements will have to be made for handling dead bodies,” the Financial Commissioner (Health) said.

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