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No SOP yet, states do usual checks on kumbh returnees

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Madhya Pradesh on Saturday became the first state to start quarantining people returning from the Kumbh while other Covid-sensitive states like Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab and Bihar said they haven’t put in place any specific measures to track the returning pilgrims.

A large number of people from these states have attended the event in Haridwar and many have now tested positive for Covid-19. Health experts are worried about the possibility of the mela turning into a super-spreader event as Covid-positive pilgrims return to their towns and villages. On Saturday, Prime Minister Narendra Modi appealed to the saint community to keep the rest of the mela symbolic, saying that it would give a boost to the fight against the pandemic.

So far, no directions have been issued to states to track Covid-19 cases linked to Kumbh, officials from the union Ministry of Home Affairs said. Speaking to ET, Uttarakhand police chief Ashok Kumar said the number of seers visiting Kumbh had “come down drastically” but the authorities did not have a mechanism to track all the mela visitors once they moved out of the state. “This year, Kumbh was notified for one month. The main event was scheduled on April 12 and 14.

Positivity rate among saints is around 2% which is less than the national average,” Kumar said. He said at the start of the Kumbh, the police had not allowed anyone who tested positive to the event. In a Saturday evening announcement, the MP government said those coming back from Kumbh will have to be in quarantine and isolation as per the health protocols. It also announced setting up of a helpline on which people can inform the district magistrate about such people in their areas. According to official estimates, Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya, Varanasi and Allahabad accounted for the highest number of saints at the mela.

Uttar Pradesh DGP Hitesh C Awasthy told ET: “The state police are assisting health authorities in testing and tracing (the pilgrims) at airport, railway station and bus stands across the state.” Police officials in UP said there were no fresh directions from the Centre to monitor those coming back from the Kumbh, but they were maintaining a vigil while observing the protocols notified by the state health department.

A large number of pilgrims from Uttarakhand use Delhi as a transit point and it is difficult to track these people travelling to Haryana, Rajasthan, UP, Punjab and Bihar, the Delhi Police said. “We have not received any directions from the health department specific to Kumbh,” said a senior Delhi police officer. Bihar DGP SK Singhal said the state police were assisting the health authorities in the management of Covid-19 protocols.

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