All centrally protected monuments, museums and sites under the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) have been closed with immediate effect till May 15 due to the surge in coronavirus cases in the country, the Union culture ministry said on Thursday.
An order to this effect was issued by the ASI and it was tweeted by Culture Minister Prahlad Patel this evening.
"Due to the prevailing COVID situation, it has been decided to close all centrally protected monuments, sites and museums under the ASI with immediate effect and till May 15 or until further orders," the ASI said.
These include 3,693 monuments and 50 museums.
In live monuments like Puri Jagannath Temple and Somnath Temple, daily 'puja' will be conducted but no public gathering will be allowed, said Nitin Tripathi, the ministry's media advisor.
Last year, too, all monuments and sites maintained by the ASI were closed due to the coronavirus pandemic on March 17. They reopened in July with strict restrictions like mandatory wearing of masks, cap on the number of visitors and social distancing.
The curbs were relaxed later in the year.
India's daily COVID-19 cases surged to a record high of 2,00,739 on Thursday, taking the country's cumulative tally to 1,40,74,564, according to Union health ministry data.
The death toll climbed to 1,73,123 with 1,038 new fatalities, the highest since October 3, the data stated.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Thursday announced that a weekend curfew will be put in place amid rising COVID-19 cases. The curfew will be only during weekends, starting Friday evening until Monday morning.Essential activities, including weddings that were planned already, will be allowed with curfew passes. Auditoriums, malls, gyms and spas will be shut down and cinema theatres will be allowed to operate with a third of the capacity.