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With 17 of its employees testing positive for Covid-19, the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD), which manages the affairs of Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala, has sounded an alert and has started taking additional measures to contain spread of the disease among the staff.
The TTD is contemplating a two-week shift for its employees, instead of the current one week. The officials said all employees before the beginning of their two-week shift will be tested for Covid-19 and only those who test negative will be allowed to discharge their duties.
Swab samples of 100 employees will be collected and sent for testing every day. The officials said there was no need for any panic but if necessary, they will review the current arrangements to contain the spread.
TTD officials clarified that the 17 employees got affected by Covid spread in their respective places they hail from and not in Tirumala. "We will not compromise on spending money over the health, safety and security of our employees and have already instructed the authorities to provide them with the best treatment," the TTD said.
Local legislators B. Karunakar Reddy and Dr C. Bhaskar Reddy, along with Additional Executive Officer A V. Dharma Reddy will instill confidence among the employees by holding meetings with employees associations.
After remaining closed for nearly three months due to the lockdown, the temple re-opened for devotees on June 8.
The TTD said it carried out a survey on the pilgrims who had darshan and reached their home places. "Not even a single devotee has been tested positive. But as the Covid cases are increasing across the country, we are not going to enhance the pilgrim numbers for darshan till this month end," TTD Chairman Y.V. Subba Reddy said after an emergency meeting of the temple body on Saturday.
Currently, 13,000 devotees are being allowed to have darshan every day. They are being permitted after screening at Alipiri, the starting point of the hill route.
The pilgrims have also been following the Covid guidelines prescribed by the TTD with utmost discipline and having hassle-free darshan. However, the Chairman appealed to devotees to book their darshan slots online only and avoid pilgrimage if they belong to red zones or containment zones.
More safety measures will be ensured during tonsuring of the devotees. The barbers will be given gloves, half PPE kits for the safety of both barbers as well as the pilgrims. The barber has to change the hand gloves after tonsuring every pilgrim.