At least 91 employees of the Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD) have tested positive for coronavirus so far, TTD Executive Officer Anil Kumar Singhal told the media on Sunday. Singhal said that COVID-19 tests are being carried out on employees at Alipiri as well as Tirumala, where the Venkateswara shrine is located in Andhra Pradesh. He also said that visitors are also being tested by collecting random samples on a daily basis.
The TTD revealed that a total of 3,569 employees had been tested as of July 10, and as of July 9, 91 of them had tested positive. In the random testing done by visitors, the TTD has shared information for two seven-day windows. TTD claimed that 700 visitors were 'surveyed' between June 18 to 25, and 1,943 visitors between July 1 and 7. None of them were found to have COVID-19, according to TTD.
The temple has received Rs 16.73 crore in Hundi collections in the past month, the TTD revealed.
The Tirumala temple was reopened for visitors from June 11, after remaining shut due to the pandemic for more than two months. The temple, which is one of the most popular Hindu shrines in the world, usually receives around 50,000 to 1 lakh visitors on a daily basis. Due to the pandemic, the number of daily visitors was capped at 6,000 at first, and later increased to a maximum of 12,000.
“Ninety-one employees have tested positive. Most of them are asymptomatic. But as a precautionary measure, we have been testing employees batch-wise from time to time. From these tests, these positive cases were found,” he said. Most of the patients were staff members of the Special Protection Force (SPF), he said. “Some of them had gone to Anantapur or Kurnool and returned. Since many SPF staff are living in close quarters, so many of them are infected and the number has gone up,” he said.
Singhal said that the situation was reviewed by TTD officials, including Chairman Y V Subba Reddy. “Since the SPF staff are all staying in the same barrack, there’s danger of spreading the virus. Similarly, potu workers (kitchen staff) are all staying together. So we are giving them rooms on twin sharing basis, so that even if one of them is infected, the virus doesn’t spread” he said.
According to data shared by the TTD, more than 50,000 visitors who had booked online tickets for darshan between June 11 (the day of reopening) and July 10 failed to show up. In the one month since reopening, while 2,02,346 people had booked darshan tickets online, 1,64,742 people showed up for darshan, while 55,669 people remained absent.
When it came to offline purchase of darshan tickets, 97,216 people booked tickets in the past month, and 85,434 turned up at the temple while 11,782 people remained absent.