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It is difficult to ensure Covid-19 safety protocols such as social distancing during the second 'shahi snan' due to the huge crowd that has gathered in Uttarakhand's Haridwar, said Kumbh Mela inspector general (IG) Sanjay Gunjyal.

"We are continuously appealing to people to follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. But due to the huge crowd, it is practically not possible to issue challans today. It is very difficult to ensure social distancing at ghats," Gunjyal said.

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"A stampede-like situation may arise if we would try to enforce social distancing at ghats so we are unable to enforce the protocols," he added.

Devotees on Monday took a holy dip in River Ganga at Har Ki Pauri in Uttarakhand's Haridwar on the occasion of the second 'shahi snan' in Kumbh.

Gunjyal said, "General public will be allowed here till 7 am. After that, this area will be reserved for akharas".

The first bath was held on 11 March on the occasion of Mahashivratri, while the second will be held on Monday and on 14 April, the third royal bath will be taken by the 13 Akhadas.

'Covid biggest challenge'

The Director-General of Police of Uttarakhand had stated earlier this month that around 20,000 soldiers have been deployed by all the forces to ensure peace and strict implementation of all Covid-19 protocols during the Mahakumbh.

Speaking to news agency ANI, DGP Ashok Kumar also said that the rising coronavirus infections are the biggest challenge that stands in front of them.

Regarding the 'shahi snan', Kumar said that 14 April is an important day for the Mahakumbh 2021, the day of the biggest royal bath. Also, 12 April, marking Somati Amavasya, is also an important day.

Special preparations are being undertaken by the force to tackle any situation between 11 to 14 April, he said.

'Won't cancel Kumbh'

Even as the second wave of coronavirus rages across the country, the Union health ministry has said that it does not plan to end the holy congregation prematurely and is hoping that standard operating procedures (SOPs) are being followed there.

On being asked if Kumbh Mela can be a super-spreader of Covid-19, Union health secretary Rajesh Bhushan said, "As the super spreader events are concerned, the union government almost a month ago issued an SOP, specifically for practices to be adopted in Kumbh and had a long meeting with the state government's officers."

"One fact that we usually lose sight of is that the duration of Kumbh has already been curtailed, Kumbh wherever it happens is usually for three and a half to four months, the present Kumbh has been curtailed to a month," he added.

Dr VK Paul, the Member (Health) of the NITI (National Institution for Transforming India) Aayog said, "We hope that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) issued for Kumbh Mela is being followed."

Uttarakhand reported 1,333 new Covid-19 cases on Sunday, taking the total caseload in the state to 1,08,812.

The active cases in the state now stand at 7,323.

With inputs from agencies.

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