As the coronavirus toll keeps ticking, several places of worship around the world have closed their doors temporarily to pilgrims, to avoid gatherings in large numbers. While the Mecca has remained shut since coronavirus cases started escalating early in March, the Pope addressed the Sunday gathering at St. Peter’s Square via video conference. Back home, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) officials have set up coronavirus awareness centres for the benefit of the pilgrims. In Visakhapatnam, the Simhachalam temple authorities too, have taken measures and limited the darshan time to ensure there is no spread of coronavirus.
The temple Executive Officer Venkateswara Rao convened a high-level meeting with the temple priests and authorities on Monday. These new rules have been enforced to ensure that the pilgrims are safe:
1. Amid the coronavirus outbreak, entry into the temple at Simhachalam has been restricted to the pilgrims temporarily. However, arrangements are made to complete darshan at the temple in ten minutes. This rule applies to VIP visitors as well.
2. Rs. 200 that was previously collected to conduct the Archana pooja will now be levied for the darshan only.
3. All the community prayers scheduled to be conducted in the temple have been cancelled temporarily.
4. Pooja time to the deity has been reduced to twenty minutes from one hour to ensure pilgrims complete their darshan faster.
5. Waiting areas during the pooja have been changed.
6. All temple staff will be required to wear masks during their duty.
7. All queue lines, common areas, and ticketing counters will be disinfected frequently.
Apart from the rules enforced within the temple premises, the EO advised pilgrims above 60 and below 12 years old to temporarily defer their visit. Further, devotees were advised to witness all the temple-related activities and poojas from live-casts instead of thronging to the temple and putting themselves at risk.