In tune with the measures taken by the Central and State governments to contain the spread of COVID-19 , the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) has embarked on a twin-pronged strategy to create awareness among pilgrims, and to screen them at the entry point.
The temple management on Friday set up a screening camp each at Alipiri and Srivarimettu - the two points at the foothills - used by devotees to trek to Tirumala where the famous temple of Lord Venkateswara is located.
TTD staff wielding thermal guns have been deployed to screen the pilgrims to check their body temperature for symptoms of fever. The objective is to prevent the further movement of people with COVID-2019 symptoms, so as to contain its spread at the hill top, where tens of thousands of people throng at any given point of time.
Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal, who visited the medical camp along with Additional Executive Officer (Tirumala) A.V. Dharma Reddy, and Chief Vigilance and Security Officer Gopinath Jatti, said the TTD had already initiated awareness programmes at the hill town during the last week. Any suspects identified by the thermal scanners would be barred entry to Tirumala. Instead, they would be sent directly to the isolation ward established at SVR Ruia Government General Hospital.
The TTD has also arranged to create COVID-2019 awareness through distribution of one lakh pamphlets, audio announcement at Tirumala, and through its Sri Venkateswara Bhakti Channel (SVBC). Laying special emphasis on health and hygiene, special cleanliness drive is in place to sanitise the Pilgrim Amenities Complex (PAC), Annadanam complex, Vaikuntham Queue Complex and Kalyanakatta (tonsuring centre) every two hours, in view of the heavy congregation of devotees at these places.
As confusion and a sense of insecurity reign supreme, the TTD has offered an option to the pilgrims to change their ₹ 300 (Special Entry Darshan) ticket booked online up to May 31 to another date of their choice. “Those intending to cancel their tickets will also get their ticket amount refunded,” Mr. Singhal calrified. This is in view of the travel restrictions imposed by the Central government on inbound air passengers coming from abroad and cancellation of visas up to Apr 15. The TTD has once again made a fervent appeal to devotees from abroad or those who had recently returned from foreign countries to postpone their visit to Tirumala in the larger interest of fellow devotees.
Extra isolation wards
Meanwhile, the Padmavathi Nilayam pilgrims accommodation complex recently opened at Tiruchanur will be used as a COVID-2019 Isolation Ward. The TTD has agreed to the State Department of Medical and Health’s request to this effect. Mr. Singhal said the TTD would also consider the plea by the District Collector Bharat Narayana Gupta to use the TTD choultries near the railway station as another isolation ward, if necessary.