The Chardham Yatra to the four famous Himalayan shrines in Uttarakhand, which was scheduled to begin next month, has been postponed in view of the massive surge in COVID-19 cases. Announcing this here on Thursday, Uttarakhand Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said conducting the yatra amid the raging pandemic is not possible.

“Considering the rising cases of corona, it has been decided to suspend the Chardham Yatra,” Rawat told reporters. However, the portals of the four Himalayan temples known as Chardham will open as scheduled, he said. Only priests will be allowed to perform daily prayers at the shrines and not devotees, the chief minister said.

“Though opening on schedule, no pilgrim neither from inside the state nor from outside will be allowed to visit the temples,” he said. Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri are the four famous shrines. Kedarnath is slated to open at 5 am on May 17, Badrinath at 4:15 am on May 18, Yamunotri at 12:15 pm on May 14 and Gangotri on 7:30 am on May 15.

COVID-19 cases have been rising drastically in Uttarakhand as in various other states.They hit a new high in the state on Wednesday with 6054 people testing positive and 108 succumbing to the virus. This is the highest single-day spike in COVID cases and fatalities recorded by the state so far.

The state government had drawn much flak for organising the Kumbh Mela in Haridwar which according to many contributed to the second wave of coronavirus. Even the Uttarakhand High Court in an oral observation recently had asked the state government to publish the standard operating procedure for Chardham Yatra saying it cannot be allowed to become another Kumbh.

It has also asked the state government to control the raging virus and save lives putting aside everything else. COVID had cast its shadow on the Chardham Yatra which is considered the backbone of the hill economy last year too delaying opening of the temples for pilgrims by several months.

The delayed opening of the temples for pilgrims coupled with restrictions such as mandatory negative RT-PCR test report, a daily cap on the number of devotees visiting shrines besides compliance with mask wearing and social distancing norms had severely affected the inflow of pilgrims.