Amid the alarming surge in COVID-19 infections across the country, over 28 lakh devotees turned up for 'Shahi Snan' in river Ganga at Kumbh Mela in Haridwar on Monday, while the Uttarakhand government is struggling to maintain basic preventive measures such as effective thermal screening and mask-wearing.
Over 18,169 devotees were tested, of which 102 tested positive between 11.30 pm on Sunday and 5 pm on Monday, as per the Medical Department Officials.
The Indian Express reported that there were no arrangements for thermal screening and no action against the COVID-19 regulation violators despite the new Artificial intelligence-enabled CCTV system and constant emphasis on 'COVID appropriate behaviour'.
"Our RT-PCR report was checked at the Narsan checkpoint along the UP border. No one asked for it in the Mela area. No thermal screening was done, " said Raj Pratap Singh, a government teacher from Madhya Pradesh's Bhind who reached Haridwar by car on Monday morning.
"Passengers for Haridwar were asked to deboard at Jwalapur railway station, about 3 km earlier. But there were a lot of passengers, and no one asked about the RT-PCR report. Later, we took a bath in the Ganga at the Gau ghat. There was no thermal screening anywhere,'' said Pramod Sharma, a businessman from Jammu, who reached on Monday morning without the mandatory RT-PCR report.
Mela's COVID In-charge Dr Avinash Khanna, said,'' Thermal screening and rapid antigen tests were done at the state borders, railway stations and ghat areas. The ghats were reserved for the akharas today morning, and so tests and screening were not done. They will be done again when the Snan of akharas will end.''
Kumbh Mela Inspector-General Sanjay Gunjyal said, "Challans for not wearing masks and thermal screening was avoided today to prevent crowding at any specific location.'
Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat, however, claimed that the state government had ensured the implementation of all COVID-19 guidelines drafted by the Centre. "We have followed the Government of India's guidelines 100 per cent," he said.
A team of two medical personnel with Rapid Antigen Test kits conducted only 11 tests in six hours from 9 am Monday, with one devotee turning positive at Har Ki Pauri, where 13 akharas (religious groups) reached in procession, one by one, for the traditional dip in the Ganga.
While addressing the condition of anonymity, a staff member said, "Those who came to get tested did so voluntarily.''
A four-member medical team reported that not a single test had been performed here today at a test facility near Mela Bhawan, which is on the return route for the akharas. "We cannot stop them and ask them to get tested," said one of them.