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PURI : After a gap of around 10 months, the devotees can go inside Lord Jagannath temple here from Thursday without a mandatory requirment of showinbg COVID-19 negative report.

The decision to lift the provision of producing COVID-19 negative report for entry in the 12th century shrine from Thursday was informed by Chief Administrator of Shree Jagannath Temple Administration (SJTA),Krishan Kumar Wednesday after a meeting with the Puri district administration and the local police.

"The devotees can enter the temple from 7 am of January 21. The mandatory production of COVID-19 report is hereby lifted," Kumar told reporters. The review meeting was also attended by Puri Collector Samarth Verma, DIG Ashish Singh and SP Kanwar Vishal Singh. Verma said arrangements have been made for smooth darshan of at least 30,000 devotees every day from Thursday.

"Devotees will not be required to show their recent COVID- 19 test report to enter the temple," the Puri collector said. Kumar also informed that a separate queue will be made for senior citizens and persons with disabilities. As the administration is expecting a surge in the number of visitors, police has decided to deploy 26 platoons (one platoon comprising 30 personnel) of police force, two ASPs, seven DSPs and 20 Inspectors inside the temple and in the periphery. Although there will be no requirement for COVID negative report for the devotees, the coronavirus restrictions will be strictly followed, Verma said.

The devotees need to wear face masks and maintain social distancing inside and outside the temple. "Before entering the temple, devotees will have to properly sanitise their hands and undergo thermal scanning. Any devotee having body temperature of 100 Fahrenheit or more will not be allowed," the collector said. Keeping in view the rise in the day temperature, arrangements have been made for availability of safe drinking water near the temple.

"We have put up 130 drinking water points along the Bada Danda (Grand Road)," he said. At a meeting of the SJTA on January 10 it was decided that no mandatory need of the COVID negative report for entry inside the temple will be initially for one month from January 21 to February 21.

Further decision will be taken after reviewing the situatiuon. The temple was opened in a phased manner from December 23, 2020. While the servitors and their family members were allowed to enter the temple from December 23 to December 25 evening, the local residents of Puri got opportunity to have darshan of the deities between December 26 and 31.

The temple was finally opened to the public for darshan of the sibling deities - Lord Balabhadra, Devi Subhadra and Lord Jagannath - from January 3, 2021 adhering to the COVID-19 guidelines. The Puri temple is one of the four "Dhams" or most sacred places of pilgrimages for the Hindus in the country. The four Dhams are Jagannath Puri in the East, Dwarika in the West, Badrinath in the North and Rameswaram in the South.

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