Sabarimala head priest quarantined over Covid-19 scare

Sabarimala head priest quarantined due to contact with two Covid-19 infected

In case he is tested Covid-19 positive, arrangements are likely to be made at temple premises itself for treating him

Sabarimala Ayyappa Temple 'melsanthi' (head priest) V K Jayaraj Potty has been quarantined after three of his aides tested Covid-19 positive.

Since 'melsanthi', who is appointed for one year, is not supposed to leave the temple premises as per the temple's norms and belief, the temple authorities are also quite concerned over the melsanthi coming under a Covid scare.

In case he is tested Covid-19 positive, arrangements are likely to be made at temple premises itself for treating him, said temple sources.

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The hill shrine in Kerala would be reopening for the second phase of the pilgrimage, 'Makaravilakku season', on Wednesday, and 5,000 pilgrims would be allowed daily from Thursday as per an order of the Kerala High Court. So far only a maximum of 3,000 pilgrims was allowed daily considering the Covid scare.

According to temple sources, two assistant priests and an assistant who used to prepare food for the 'melsanthi' were tested Covid positive. Hence the 'melsanthi' was advised to remain in quarantine.

During the first phase of the pilgrimage, 390 persons were tested Covid positive of which 289 were employees of various departments. As many as 71,706 pilgrims visited the temple during the first phase. Adequate precautions were being made to avoid priests coming into direct contact with pilgrims.

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The Travancore Devaswom Board that manages the temple has been demanding for allowing up to 10,000 pilgrims daily citing the financial crunch being caused owing to the restriction in the number of pilgrims. The revenue during the first phase was only Rs. 9.09 crore, while it was Rs. 156 crore last year. On average, the temple required up to Rs. 50 lakh for the daily routine expenses.

Various Hindu outfits had earlier raised concerns over increasing the number of pilgrims at Sabarimala citing that in case the infection spreads among pilgrims, it may even hit the routine rituals.