The Vaishno Devi Yatra in Jammu and Kashmir will resume from August 16, nearly five months after it was suspended due to the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic. The government has decided to open religious places or places of worship in the union territory.
The government has issued several guidelines for the pilgrims undertaking the yatra. There will be a ceiling of maximum 5,000 pilgrims per day till September 30. A maximum of 500 pilgrims per day will be permitted within this ceiling in a graded manner from outside Jammu and Kashmir.
The children under the age of 10 will not be able to travel at present. All passengers will have to wear masks and a limited number of domestic devotees will be allowed to visit the shrine. Travel will be closed at night and for the time being, there is a prohibition on the stay of the devotees at the Mata Bhavan. At present, devotees will not be allowed to attend the 'Aarti' held in the morning.
Due to the relatively large number of pilgrims visiting the Shrine of Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Ji at Katra, the following additional guidelines shall be applied to this shrine--
a) There shall be a ceiling of maximum 5000 pilgrims per day till 30th September 2020. A maximum of 500 pilgrims per day will be permitted within this ceiling in a graded manner from outside Jammu & Kashmir
b) Registration of pilgrims should be made only through online mode, in order to avoid any assembly of persons at current counters
c) For pilgrims coming from outside Jammu & Kashmir, the protocol of 100% compulsory COVID-19 antigen testing, as laid down in Government Order Dated 30.07.2020 will be followed. Permission to proceed beyond Katra on yatra shall be accorded only when COVID result of these pilgrims is negative. Pilgrims from Red districts of J&K shall also be compulsorily tested and allowed to proceed on yatra if the result is negative. Necessary administrative arrangement and coordination will be done by concerned District authorities and Shrine Board.
d) Rapid Antigen Test (RAT) facilities at multiple locations at the start of the yatra route could also be set up to randomly test and identify any potential carrier of infection
e) Periodic COVID-19 antigen testing of the exposed / frontline staff of SMVDSB and other service providers in the surrounding area shall be carried out in order to keep a constant tab on the spread of COVID infection in Katra and its surrounding area.
f) Highest level of cleaning and sanitization protocol for the sanctum sanctorum including the holy caves should be followed.
g) Sanitization and hygiene of all toilet blocks, bathing ghats, guest houses, battery cars, Helicopters, Cable car shall be
h) Staggering of pilgrims in a manner such that the main Bhawan area at no point of time has a gathering of more than
600 persons (including pilgrims, security personnel and other service providers).
i) Optimum use of all Yatra routes to ensure maximum staggering and physical distancing.
j) Sufficient physical distancing inside the caves to ensure good ventilation.
k) Sufficient facility for washing of hands and feet.
l) Linen/blanket facility not to be allowed. Pilgrims should not be encouraged to stay at Bhawan after darshans.
m) Provision of dedicated facilities for Isolation and Quarantine purpose.
n) Use of Equines should not be allowed until further orders.
General instructions for all places of worship:
1) The District Magistrates (Chairpersons of DDMAs) shall ensure compliance of these instructions. The DMs are fully competent to close or impose such restrictions on any place of worship(s) based on local assessment of the spread of COVID.
2) Organizations managing the affairs of various places of worship are mandatorily required to set up Covid-19 Safety Committees, which may consist of their volunteers/sevadars/employees. These Committees shall be required to ensure adherence to this SOP at all times. The District Magistrates shall be required to ensure compliance to this before the opening of the Places of worship, on 16.08.2020.
3) Places of worship shall be allowed to open for public in all districts of Jammu and Kashmir.
4) Persons above 60 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home. Organizations managing the religious institutions are required to enforce this at their level
5) All visitors are required to maintain a distance of 6 feet from each other in these places at all times, even when queuing up for entry.
6) All visitors are to be allowed entry only if they are using face covers/masks.
7) Only asymptomatic persons would be allowed entry into the premises.
8) People should be made to wash their hands and feet with soap and water before entering the premises. Necessary facilities shall be provided for this purpose by the organizations managing the premises.
9) Touching of statue, idols or holy books etc., should not be permitted.
10) Large congregational gatherings shall not be allowed inside premises till further orders. Only individual prayers shall be allowed to be performed.
11) Physical offerings like Sprinkling of Holy water, Prasad etc., should not be allowed.
12) Sanitization of the premises should be done at regular intervals, the timings for which should be fixed by the managing organizations. Frequent cleaning and disinfection roster should be maintained by the management of each place of worship.
13) Installation and use of Aarogya Setu App shall be mandatory for all visitors.
14) Staggering of the visitors should be done to prevent any crowding.
15) Shops/Footwear should be preferably taken off inside their own vehicles.
16) Common prayer mats/Durres should not be used and wherever required, devotees shall carry their own individual mats which shall be taken along.
17) Community kitchens Langers Bhojanalyas/ Food Courts etc. should be allowed to function only subject to norms of physical
distancing, while preparing and distributing food.
18) There has to be very effective sanitization of lavatories, hand and foot washing stations/areas, railings, doorknobs, etc. Sanitization staff or volunteers have to be provided necessary disinfectants prescribed by the Ministry of Health and Welfare, Gol.
19) Proper disposal of face covers/ masks, gloves and other leftovers by the pilgrims should be ensured.
20) All places of worship will maintain a list of persons (with contactable details) entering their places, which may be required for the purpose of contact tracing subsequently by the concerned district administration.
21) In case of a suspect or a confirmed COVID case in the premises, the person should be isolated in an area, he should be immediately reported to the nearest health facility and necessary COVID protocol should be initiated.
Special instructions for major shrines:
22) Major shrines like Charar-e-Sharief, Hazratbal, Mata Vaishnodeviji; Nangali Sahab; Shahdara Sharief; Shiv Khori etc., where devotees visit from all parts of the Union Territory and the Country, shall be required to take special precautions.
23) These shrines, to begin with on 16.08.2020, shall be permitted only for a limited number of visitors/ devotees from outside Jammu and Kashmir.
24) These Shrines shall set up a system of registration of visitors/devotees and only registered devotees, subject to an upper limit, to be decided by the organizations/trusts/Boards managing these Shrines in consultation with concerned District Magistrates, shall be allowed.