As Priests Contract Covid-19, Uncertainty Looms Over Opening of Jagannath Temple

BHUBANESWAR, INDIA, September 11, 2020 : With 167 of the 2,000 priests of the 12th century Jagannath temple in Puri infected by Covid-19, the opening of the temple to the public now seems to be shrouded in uncertainty. On August 31, the state government had decided that none of the religious places in the state will be opened till September 30. However, any hopes of the Jagannath temple, the most famous religious shrine in Odisha, opening in October have been squashed away with several servitors or priests of the temple getting infected.

Though the infection in Puri and among the servitors of Jagannath temple was under control during the lockdown, it has been on a steady rise since mid-July after the relaxation of lockdown norms. Though the daily average of Covid-19 cases in Puri did not exceed 20, the district has been recording an average of 200 cases a day. On Friday, the district reported a case positivity rate of 20 which is almost 3 times of Odisha’s daily positivity rate. However, it is the rising infection among the temple servitors that has become a cause of concern for the district administration. “The servitors live close to each other and that’s one reason for the rise in infection. Many of them have comorbidity conditions like diabetes and hypertension and that is a matter of concern to us,” said Puri district collector Balwant Singh.