Coronavirus scare: Himachal bars darshan at several temples; advises devotees to do it online

The Himachal Pradesh government Tuesday suspended the darshan at all the government-controlled temples and ordered measures to sanitise public places as the total number of people under surveillance climbed to 613, even as no person has tested positive for novel coronavirus (Covid-19) in the state so far.

Entry to several temples in the state has been suspended ahead of the Navratras from March 25 to April 2, when devotees including people from outside the state congregate in large numbers, especially at some of the major temples in Kangra, Una, Bilaspur, Hamirpur and Sirmaur districts.

“During the Navratra worship, up to one lakh devotees congregate here in the Chintpurni temple. Devotees who had already arrived here were allowed entry on Tuesday but the entry has now been suspended and we will be airing the ceremonies online for the devotees,” said temple officer Manoj Kumar.

Similar restrictions were imposed in Jwalamukhi, Brajeshwari and Chamunda temples in Kangra, Naina Devi temple in Bilaspur and Baba Balak Nath temple in Hamirpur, among others, district officials said. In the border districts, checkpoints have been set up at the entry points from Punjab to inform outstation devotees who may be unaware of these developments. The Dalai Lama temple in Mcleodganj will also be closed for followers from Wednesday onwards.

The Himachal Pradesh High Court restricted its functioning and notified that all regular court work, including matters listed before the respective benches, stand suspended till March 31. Only fresh cases of “extremely urgent nature” can now be listed before the benches, the notification said, adding that a pending matter involving urgency can also be listed upon a “mention in that behalf having been made before the chief justice or any other designated judge”. During the period of suspension, only a single list of cases to be listed on the next day will be published.

Chief Minister Jai Ram Thakur said that quick reaction teams have been posted at the state and district levels and besides isolation wards at the two premier hospitals, separate wards have been identified at district-level hospitals. He said that 50-bedded quarantine facilities have also been set up in Shimla, Mandi and Dharamshala. “Personal preventive instruments and N-95 masks have been made available in all district hospitals and medical colleges of the state. Buses are being sanitised and passengers educated. Those coming from foreign countries are being kept in quarantine,” he said.

Educational institutions are closed till March 31. However, some private institutions, including Shoolini University in Solan and APG University in Shimla, after suspending regular classes, have started online lecture delivery and virtual academic activity. A ban has been imposed on organising fairs, festivals and sports tournaments across the state, and authorities have directed bank officials to sanitise ATM panels at regular intervals.

The Central Tibetan Administration has issued guidelines to Tibetan monasteries, schools and elder care homes in India, Nepal and Bhutan to cancel public gatherings for a month. The CTA has also asked all boarding and day schools to be closed for a minimum of one month.

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