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Ram Mandir priest, 14 security staff test Covid-positive week before Ayodhya bhoomi poojan

Ayodhya administration hasn’t confirmed it, but Ram Mandir head priest tells ThePrint that one of his subordinate priests is Covid-positive.

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Lucknow: The bhoomi poojan (land worship) ceremony for the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya is less than a week away, but preparations have been jolted by a spate of positive coronavirus tests at the site — including a priest, and 14 policemen and other security personnel.

The bhoomi poojan ceremony, to be held on 5 August, is set to feature many dignitaries, including Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath.

Head priest Satyendra Das confirmed to ThePrint that one of his subordinates, Pradeep Das, has tested positive for Covid-19, while he, his driver and his gunner have all tested negative.

Ayodhya District Magistrate Anuj Jha and Chief Medical Officer Ghanshyam Singh haven’t confirmed that a priest has got infected. Jha said dozens of cases are being reported every day and all names cannot be disclosed, but he will get media reports about the priest verified. Singh said he would only be able to confirm the reports by evening.

However, CMO Singh did confirm that 14 policemen and other security personnel posted in the proposed Ram Mandir complex have also been infected by the virus. Sources said the number includes one each from the fire brigade and the state armed constabulary (PAC). All of them have been sent to the quarantine centre in Ayodhya city.

The positive tests have made the administration begin testing others involved in the preparations.

Also read: Ram Mandir can’t wait for Covid vaccine. Modi is Hindutva leader first, India’s PM later

Bhoomi poojan won’t be postponed

Sources associated with the bhoomi poojan programme said while the positive Covid tests will have some adverse impact on the pace of preparations, the programme will not be postponed as head priest Satyendra Das and most of his associates are healthy.

No information is yet available about how many people came into contact with the infected priest, Pradeep Das. However, sources said when CM Adityanath had visited the site on 25 July, he had come into proximity with Pradeep Das.

Also read: Reader View: Building Ram Mandir now is not the right time, Modi shouldn’t attend ceremony


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