Coronavirus concern: No Tirupati darshan for pilgrims till March 31st; rituals to continue as usual

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Coronavirus in India: Pilgrims, don’t rush to Tirupati for darshan as the Lord Balaji shrine is closed till March 31st! The Sri Venkateswara Temple in Andhra Pradesh, also known as the Lord Balaji temple, will remain shut for devotees till March 31 amid the outbreak of coronavirus in India, PTI reported. The decision was taken by the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam Board on Thursday evening. All darshan tickets including special entry darshan tickets and accommodation tickets have been cancelled and booking amounts are set to be refunded to pilgrims through the original payment mode that was used while booking the darshan/accommodation tickets. Also, pilgrims can cancel their bookings up to 31st May by sending an email with details of their booking to the concerned temple authorities. These details have been elaborated on the TTD official website for pilgrims to take note of.

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Moreover, the temple is making arrangements to complete the offerings of devotees who have already reached the temple, according to news agency ANI. However, ANI added, while devotees will not be allowed to visit the temple, the priests will continue to offer prayers and carry out all the ritual services as usual.

The Lord Balaji Temple, which is one of the most visited temples in the country and sees a footfall of as many as 3 to 4 crore devotees every year. The temple had earlier issued an advisory asking devotees to bring masks and sanitisers with them as precautionary measures against coronavirus, which causes COVID-19. Moreover, the temple had deployed a special task force equipped with medical tools and thermal guns at the footpath routes, so as to detect any visitors who were suffering from the symptoms of coronavirus.

Apart from this, the temple board had also requested any person showing these symptoms to postpone their visit, considering the security high number of visitors.

Coronavirus-induced COVID-19 originated in China's Wuhan in December last year and spread there rapidly. Even though the Chinese government locked down Wuhan, the disease already spread to other countries at a fast pace. While China was the epicenter of the virus for about 3 months, the number of cases there have gone down and now, Europe has become the epicentre, after Italy saw a spike in cases.

COVID-19 first entered India at the end of January, when three people in Kerala tested positive for the virus. They were, however, soon cured and for a month, India saw no new cases. However, at the end of February, an Italy-returned Indian national emerged to be the first case in the re-entry of the virus in India. Soon after, 15 Italian nationals tested positive. The numbers have now gone past 160 and 4 deaths have occurred due to the virus in India. To avoid the spread of the virus, the government has suspended all incoming international flights, announced the closure of all educational institutions and told organisations to switch to work from home.