Katra (J&Okay): Khushvinder Singh is a part of a 12-member group from Jammu who reached Katra earlier than daybreak to pay obeisance on the well-known Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine atop Trikuta hills in Reasi district of Jammu and Kashmir.

The shrine together with different religious places throughout the Union Territory reopened for devotees on Sunday morning after remaining closed for nearly 5 months because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I used to come to the shrine at least once every month to offer my prayers. I feel blessed to be back on the first day of the reopening of the shrine,” the 48-year-old Singh informed PTI.

Singh had reached Katra, the bottom camp for the pilgrims visiting Vaishno Devi shrine, round four am and was among the many first batch to supply prayers on the sanctum sanctorum – the holy cave which is the final word vacation spot of the pilgrims.

The gates of the shrine reopened for the devotees round 6 am and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board (SMVDSB) Ramesh Kumar was seen taking final minute evaluate of the measures to make sure security of the pilgrims from the dreaded illness.

“The Vaishno Devi pilgrimage was stopped on March 18 as a precautionary measure to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and now when the administration had decided to reopen the religious places, the board had taken all necessary measures keeping in mind the challenge posed by the dreaded disease,” Kumar stated.

In the primary week, there shall be a cap of two,000 pilgrims every day, of which 1,900 can be from Jammu and Kashmir and the remaining 100 from exterior.

“The government has come out with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the pilgrims are requested to follow the guidelines for their own safety and the safety of others,” Kumar stated whereas inspecting the automated thermal screening level which together with hand sanitizer was arrange alongside the entry level dotted with circles to make sure social distancing.

Only the pilgrims who’ve registered themselves on-line are being allowed to undertake the pilgrimage.

The pilgrims are directed to make use of conventional routes — from Katra to Bhawan through Banganga, Adhkuwari and Sanjichhat — to achieve the shrine and Himkoti route-Tarakote Marg for his or her return journey.

“The pilgrims, coming from red zones, and outside Jammu and Kashmir would have to undergo COVID-19 test and only those pilgrims with negative reports will be allowed to move towards Bhawan,” Kumar stated.

Children under 10 years, pregnant girls, individuals with comorbidities and people above 60 years have been suggested to keep away from religious places in the meanwhile.

An enormous sanitisation marketing campaign was launched by the shrine board proper from Katra to Bhawan earlier than the resumption of the pilgrimage.

“We were waiting impatiently for the reopening of the shrine and I am feeling good to be here. We are thankful to the Lt Governor administration for the decision,” Mohit Sharma, a resident of R S Pura space of Jammu, stated as he set out for the Bhawan from the Bal Ganga entry level.

He lauded the shrine board for its preventive measures and stated “prayers are also needed to overcome this pandemic”.

“We have come to seek the blessings of the Mata to overcome our troubles,” Pankaj Sharma stated as he displayed hand sanitizers and face masks whereas shifting in the direction of the shrine.

He stated the devotees want to offer full help to the shrine board which is doing its greatest to make sure the security of the pilgrims.