The Kerala government on Friday decided to allow 1,500 people in major religious festivals and events in the state including Aluva Sivarathri, Maramon Convention and Attukal Pongala. A government order directed people to attend the festivals and religious events strictly adhering to COVID-19 protocol including wearing masks and keeping adequate distance.
Only those over 18 years of age who have a RT-PCR negative certificate taken within 72 hours or a document to prove that they were infected with virus in the last three months will be allowed entry in the places where festivals are held. People below 18 years can attend the festivals with their family members.
The government also decided not to allow devotees to offer 'pongala' (offering to the deity) in public places or on roads during the famous Attukal Pongala. However, people can make the offering from their homes, the government order said.
Attukal Pongala, one of the world's largest all-women religious congregations, will be held on February 17. Preparing 'pongala' is considered an auspicious ritual of the annual festival of the Attukal Bhagavathy temple in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala.
Last year also the Pongala festival was held without the mass gathering of women devotees in public places and long lines of wayside makeshift hearths.
With active COVID-19 cases in Kerala starting to show a decline over the past few days, the Kerala government had earlier decided to ease COVID-19 restrictions and asked schools and colleges in the state to prepare for functioning in a full-fledged manner from the end of February.
Daily COVID-19 cases in Kerala continued to drop below 20,000 with the state on Friday recording 16,012 fresh infections which raised the total caseload to 63,81,063.
The southern state had reported 18,420 COVID-19 cases on Thursday.