Thiruvananthapuram, October 15: After over six months, devotees will be allowed entry into the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa in Sabarimala for the first time since the March 24 national lockdown due to COVID-19, when the temple opens for the five-day monthly pujas from Saturday.

The temple will open at 5 pm on Friday evening, but devotees would be allowed entry only from Saturday morning at 5 AM, the first day of Malayalam month 'Thulam', sources of the Travancore Devaswom Board (TDB), which manages the shrine, said. Mandatory to Carry COVID-19 Negative Certificate as Sabarimala Temple Opens from Oct 16.

Pilgrims will have to mandatorily carry COVID-19 negative certificates of tests conducted 48 hours prior to their visit and book darshan time and day through virtual queue system,Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters. They should also carry a medical certificate stating that they were fit to trek the holy hills. All arrangements have been completed to ensure that pilgrims face no hassles. Only 250 devotees will be allowed each day.

Police personnel have been deployed in required numbers, he said. Only those between 10 and 60 years would be allowed to offer prayers and the pilgrims should carry masks, sanitisers and gloves and strictly follow COVID-19 protocol.

There should be no gathering of devotees and social distancing should be maintained, Vijayan said. All other routes to Sabarimala, except through Vadasserikkara and Erumeli, have been closed.

Medical and para medical staff have been deployed at the hospitals at nilackal, Pamba and sannidhanam. Pilgrims are not permitted to stay at Sannidhanam, Nilackkalor Pamba in view of the COVID-19 situation.

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