COVID-19 cases in Tirupati temple rise to 160; TTD board says won't shut shrine, sparks outrage

TTD Board chairperson YV Subba Reddy said that 16 priests have been infected by novel coronavirus since the temple re-opened for devotees on 11 June

FP Staff July 18, 2020 23:16:22 IST
COVID-19 cases in Tirupati temple rise to 160; TTD board says won't shut shrine, sparks outrage

The Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which governs the Lord Venkateswara temple at Tirumala in Tirupati has stirred up controversy after the board said that devotees can still visit the shrine even as the number of employees having tested positive for the novel coronavirus rose to 160 on Saturday.

Among those who have tested positive recently, include a senior pontiff of the Shree Pedda Jeeyar Swamy Mutt, TTD Board chairperson YV Subba Reddy told PTI on Saturday.

He said that the 63-year-old seer was to be shifted to a corporate hospital in Chennai but he declined and expressed his wish to take treatment at the mutt itself.

As per a centuries-old custom, the seer has been observing a four-month-long 'Chaturmasya Deeksha' since Sunday last, so he preferred to remain here and get treatment, Reddy said.

The pontiff's health condition is, however, stable, the chairman said.

Since the temple was re-opened for devotees on June 11, about 160 TTD staff members, including 16 'archakas' (priests) were infected by the virus so far, he said.

Nevertheless, the devotees can still visit the shrine, he added.

According to a report in ABP News, besides priests, 16 workers in laddu-making kitchens and 56 security personnel all of whom are likely to have come in direct or indirect contact of people coming in for darshanam (worship) have also tested positive for the virus.

Earlier, the NDTV too had quoted Reddy as saying that there are no plans to stop public darshan because there is no evidence of pilgrims testing positive for coronavirus.

"We have no plan to close Tirumala temple. Senior priests will not be put on duty. Priests and employees have requested separate accommodation," Reddy said, adding a separate facility for making food for the employees will be set up.

Meanwhile, the temple administration has come under severe criticism for its decision to remain open. Recently, an honorary priest of the temple has questioned on social media, the temple board's decision to remain open despite the outbreak.

Similar views have been aired on Twitter where many people compared the situation at the Tirupati temple with the Tablighi Jamaat case in Delhi. People have also questioned the lack of outrage over the temple not being cautious about a highly contagious disease.

Some have also demanded that the authorities shut the temple in order to arrest the spread of the novel coronavirus.

In March, thousands of Tablighi Jamaat members had been taken out of its markaz in Delhi's Nizamuddin, where they had gathered for a religious congregation, and quarantined as the area became a major hotspot after a number of members tested positive for coronavirus.

According to a BBC report, members and workers had gathered for the congregation in February but some of the key events were held in early March. According to the organisers, many members  of the Jamaat were stranded at the Alami Markaz Banglewali Masjid or Nizamuddin Masjid Markaz (headquarters of the Jamaat) due to the sudden lockdown announced on 24 March.

On 31 March, the Delhi Police's Crime Branch had lodged an FIR against seven people, including Maulana Saad Kandhalvi, on a complaint by Station House Officer Nizamuddin for holding the congregation in violation of the orders against large gathering and for not maintaining social distancing to contain the spread of coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Andhra Pradesh's coronavirus tally recorded a new single day high on Saturday. A fresh 3,963 COVID-19 cases pushed the overall tally in state to 44,609 while 52 patients died, the highest in a day so far.

The state now has 22,260 active cases with a total of 21,763 coronavirus patients cured. The virus has killed 586 people in the state.

With inputs from PTI

 

 

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