The Lord Venkateswara temple in Andhra Pradesh’s Tirumala, which is part of Tirupati, has seen more than 700 cases of the novel coronavirus among its staff in the past two months. Since June 11, when the temple reopened to the public after a nationwide lockdown, two of its staff and one former employee have lost their lives due to COVID-19.
“Of the 743 infected, about 402 personnel have recovered so far from infection while 338 people were undergoing treatment at different COVID care facilities,” PTI quoted TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal as saying.
Singhal, however, denied reports in sections of the media and on social media that the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) had reopened the hill shrine after the coronavirus lockdown for the public with an intention to fill its coffers. “The ancient temple was reopened on requests from devotees and entry was allowed by following strict COVID-19 measures,” he said.
Y. V. Subba Reddy, the chairman of the temple’s trust organisation, told Reuters, “We are providing the best medication to those infected. We are taking utmost precaution, social distancing norms are followed, devotees and others are wearing masks.”
The trust of the temple, which is one of the biggest and most wealthy Hindu shrines in the world, employs about 22,500 workers including 300 priests and controls 10 temples, including the main Venkateswara temple where it employs 36 priests.
India has reported 22,68,676 coronavirus cases so far. As many as 53,601 infections and 871 deaths were reported in the 24 hours ending 9 am Tuesday. Of the total, 69.80 per cent of the patients (15,83,490) have recovered, while 28.21 per cent (6,39,929) are being treated. With less than 2 per cent deaths, fatalities stand at 45,257.
India has fewer cases than only the United States and Brazil, though it has reported a relatively low number of deaths, at fewer than 45,000, although epidemiologists say the peak of its outbreak could be months away.
In June, the government had started a phased re-opening after a strict lockdown that was imposed on March 25. Temples and other places of worship were allowed to open in the first week of June. From virtual queues to mandatory use of masks, thermal scanning to standing within circles drawn on the ground to maintain social distancing, a slew of measures were put in place to control crowds and check the spread of the infection.