With just two months to go for the start of the Mandalam-Makaravilakku season, a group of doctors have suggested that only pilgrims from Kerala be allowed to perform rituals at the Sabarimala temple this time and their numbers should be restricted to avoid drastic spread of COVID-19.
The suggestions were part of a study published in The Journal of Travel Medicine recently. The authors include K. Rajasekharan Nayar, Professor, Global Institute of Public Health, Thiruvananthapuram; Shaffi Fazaluddin Koya, research analyst, Boston University School of Public Health, U.S.; Althaf Ali, Associate Professor of Community Medicine, Government Medical College, Manjeri; and Shahul H. Ebrahim, Adjunct Professor, University of Sciences, Technique and Technology, Bamaco, Mali.
The study suggested that only “5,000 in-State pilgrims” should be allowed in a staggered manner during the six-week season. Among them, 60% should be “persons of other State origin residing in Kerala.” It said each of the six weeks could be designated to various districts in the State to enable ease of transportation and contact tracing in the future.
An exclusive COVID-19 command and control centre should be set up for Sabarimala. A website and a web application should be developed in Malayalam, Tamil, Kannada, Telugu, and Hindi for online registration. The selection should be through draw of lots. The pilgrims should have completed 20 years of age as on the first day of scheduled departure for Sabarimala and must not be over 50 years as on the scheduled end of the pilgrimage.
Individually identifiable electronic non-removable monitoring tools should be placed on their person to enable compliance with home isolation for 14 days before the departure and 10 days after the pilgrimage. The recommendations may be presented to the State government soon.