Puri: After opening doors of Lord Jagannath temple for the devotees without COVID-19 negative report, the Sree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA) urged the Odisha government Thursday to provide coronavirus vaccines to servitors and their family members on a priority basis.
SJTA chief administrator Krishan Kumar in a letter to Additional Chief Secretary, Health and Family Welfare Department, PK Mohapatra emphasised on the necessity of undertaking early vaccination of servitors of the 12th century shrine.
“Devotees are being allowed to enter the shrine from January 21, 2021 without insisting upon any COVID-19 negative certificate. It is expected that large numbers of devotees will be visiting daily,” the SJTA said in its letter.
Therefore, chance of the Sevayats getting infected on account of the virus cannot be ruled out. They will be coming in the close contact with the devotees. For uninterrupted performance of different ‘Nitis’ (rituals) of the lords inside the temple, it is suggested that all servitors and their families may please be vaccinated on a priority basis, Kumar stated in the letter.
There are 500 numbers of temple officials who may also be inoculated on priority, he added.
Kumar wrote the letter to the government after the issue was discussed in ‘Chatisa Nijog’ (servitors body) meeting. A decision to write to the Odisha government was taken during the meeting.
At least 18 servitors including three members of the temple management committee have already died of COVID-19 during the pandemic. Another 200 of them have tested positive for the virus so far, a senior servitors said seeking safety for the community.
On the opening day of the entry into the temple without a mandatory COVID negative report, more than 25,000 devotees visited shrine. Giving this information, the temple management committee said that all devotees have to wear masks at all times, inside and outside of the temple premises.
The SOP issued also prohibited chewing of tobacco/paan (betel leaf) and spitting in the temple premises. Devotees have to maintain social distancing and also sanitise their hands before entering the temple.
It should be stated here that the temple will remain closed for public darshan on all Sundays. This will be done to sanitise the shrine premises, said the SJTA. A separate queue was made for the senior citizens and persons with disabilities.