Keeping in view the surge of COVID-19 cases in Odisha and also in Puri, the authorities of the temple of Lord Jagannath in the pilgrim town on Sunday announced that the 12th century would remain out of bounds for the public till June 15.

The famous temple is closed for the devotees since May 5 as a state-wide lockdown was imposed by the Odisha government.

The Shree Jagannatha Temple Administration made the decision to keep the temple closed for people till June 15 at a review meeting chaired by SJTA Chief Administrator Dr Krishan Kumar and attended by Puri Collector Samarth Verma.

The administration of the temple in Puri is under the law department of the state government and the SJTA, which is responsible for management of the shrine, is headed by a senior IAS officer.

It was also decided at the meeting to review the standard operating procedure from time to time, keeping in view the evolving situation.

Though members of the temple will not be allowed to enter the temple, all the age-old rituals of the deities continue with the help of servitors and the temple administration officials, Kumar said.

The spread of COVID-19 among the servitors during these times will be detrimental to the observance of daily rituals and annual programmes such as ‘Chandan Yatra’, ‘Sanan Yatra’ and ‘Ratha Yatra’, a statement issued by the SJTA said.

Odisha’s COVID-19 caseload on Sunday surged to 6,12,224 after 11,732 more people tested positive for the infection, while 19 fresh fatalities pushed the death toll to 2,313, a health department official said.

Meanwhile, the Chandan Yatra (sandalwood festival) began on Saturday, adhering to COVID-19 protocols.

Construction of chariots for the Rath Yatra begins from the day of the Chandan Yatra.

All the participants of the Chandan Yatra have undergone COVID-19 tests while the carpenters and others associated with chariot construction will be kept in isolation till completion of the works, an official said.

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