The Uttarakhand government on Thursday suspended the Char Dham Yatra, which was scheduled to begin from May 14, due to the massive surge in coronavirus cases, PTI reported.

Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said the gates of the four Himalayan temples Badrinath, Kedarnath, Gangotri and Yamunotri will open as scheduled. But, only priests will be allowed to perform prayers and not devotees.

On Wednesday, the Uttarakhand High Court said the state had become a “laughing stock” by allowing the Kumbh Mela in the midst of a raging pandemic, The Times of India reported. Last week, the High Court said the Char Dham Yatra cannot be a repeat of Kumbh Mela, which led to a sharp rise in infections in the state. The violation of Covid-19 protocols at the gathering had attracted attention from across the world. However, state authorities, including the chief minister, have tried to downplay the risks.

According to officials, the pilgrimage was suspended after a telephonic conversation between state Tourism Minister Satpal Maharaj and Rawat. The minister suggested that the yatra should be cancelled till the situation in the state improves.

Uttarakhand recorded the highest single-day jump of 6,054 new coronavirus cases on Wednesday, taking the tally since the pandemic broke out last year to 1,68,616. With 108 more deaths, the toll rose to 2,417.