Thiruvananthapuram: Amid a decline in fresh COVID-19 cases in Kerala, the state government gave the green signal for Sabarimala pilgrims to take a holy dip before going uphill for darshan of Lord Ayyappa at the Sabarimala temple from Sunday. The holy dip was not permitted since the two-month-long temple season that began on November 16.Also Read - Third Shot Of Covid Vaccine Necessary To Fight 'Super Mutant' Omicron Variant: Study

Further relaxing the restrictions imposed on pilgrims, the Kerala government directive issued on Saturday also allowed devotees to take any route they wish to travel uphill for darshan of Lord Ayyappa. Till now only one route was open. Now, pilgrims will also be allowed to remain at the temple hilltop for 12 hours and rooms will also be given to the needy. Also Read - Kerala's Sabarimala Witnesses Heavy Rush of Pilgrims Amid Annual Mandalam-Makaravilakku Festival

This season it has been decided to limit the daily number of devotees to a maximum of 30,000 which should be either pre-booked or must get a spot booking for which counters have been opened. According to the temple authorities, by now more than 1.6 million pilgrims have pre-booked their temple visit. The darshan season will end in the third week of January 2022 with a few days’ break in the last week of December. Also Read - Now, Children Can Enter Kerala's Sabarimala Temple Without an RT-PCR Test

The restrictions were eased after the state Devasom Minister, K Radhakrishnan held talks with Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. Earlier this week, the ‘tantri’ of the temple, Kantarar Mahesh Mohanaru expressed the hope that things will soon fall in place so that all traditional rituals at the temple take place.

Fresh directive exempts kids under 10

  • The Kerala government has also come out with a fresh directive exempting all children below 10 years from a Covid test (RT-PCR) to visit the temple.
  • The directive, however, said that the adults accompanying the children should ensure that the latter follow Covid protocols and must wear a mask, carry a sanitiser and ensure that social distancing is maintained.
  • The order said that the adults are accountable for the children’s health issues.
  • Pilgrims above 10 years must either carry a negative RT-PCR test report taken prior to 72 hours or must have taken both the vaccine jabs.

(With inputs from IANS)