The Char Dham Yatra has been suspended in view of the coronavirus pandemic in Uttarakhand, Chief Minister Tirath Singh Rawat said on Tuesday.

In a tweet, Rawat urged everyone to pray virtually and perform the rituals from home.

The Char Dham Yatra was initially scheduled between May 14 and May 18. However, the Uttarakhand government had postponed the pilgrimage on April 29 due to the massive surge in coronavirus cases.

Rawat had said on April 29 that 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. Devotees can visit these shrines virtually from Tuesday.

The Char Dham pilgrimage, which attracts a large number of devotees, begins from Yamunotri, then proceeds to Gangotri and finally to Kedarnath and Badrinath.

The Uttarakhand government’s decision to postpone the pilgrimage for the first time came a day after the Uttarakhand High Court said that the state had become a “laughing stock” by allowing the Kumbh Mela in the midst of a raging pandemic. A week before that, the High Court had said that the Char Dham Yatra could not 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, had tried to downplay the risks.

Uttarakhand has so far reported 2,87,286 coronavirus cases and 4,811 deaths so far. The state has 78,802 active cases.

Curfew extended

The Uttarakhand government on Monday extended the coronavirus curfew in the state till 6 am on May 25, reported PTI. The restrictions were scheduled to end at 6 am on Tuesday.

The government has also made it mandatory for residents attending weddings to produce negative RT-PCR tests reports that are not older than 72 hours. Cabinet minister and state government’s official spokesperson Subodh Uniyal said that the number of guests allowed has been reduced to 20. Uniyal added that the decisions aim to break the chain of transmission.

As part of the curbs, the residents will need a curfew pass to go to a cremation or burial ground. Public distribution system outlets, grocery and bakery shops will be allowed to remain open from 7 am to 10 am. Banks will operate between 10 am and 2 pm. Now, the State Employees Finance Institute will also be allowed to function from 10 am to 2 pm, ANI reported.

Meanwhile, the police have decided to keep its personnel aged 55 years and above and those pregnant away from the coronavirus frontline duty. In a statement, the police said that women personnel with children below the age of one year will also not take up Covid-19 frontline duty.