Priests, Staff of Tirumala test COVID-19 positive, triggers uproar

Tirupati:  As many as 140 staff members of Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanam (TTD) which governs the shrine of Lord Venkateshwara, have tested positive for COVID-19 since June 11, the temple authorities confirmed.

On Thursday (July 16), the honorary head priest of the temple Ramana Deekshitulu tweeted that the EO and AEO of the board are refusing to stop darshans even as 15 out of the 50 archakas (priests) were tested positive for COVID-19. This triggered an uproar in the shrine.

The TTD Staff and Workers’ United Front had submitted a representation to TTD EO Anil Kumar Singhal, requesting that darshan at the temple be temporarily suspended pointing out the growing number of cases in Tirupati town and the risk of more staff members being contracted with COVID-19.

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Following this, the TTD conducted an urgent meeting with the officials and the priests. It refused the demand for another temporary closure of the temple.

In a press briefing, chairman Y V Subba Reddy confirmed 14 archakas, 16 workers in laddu-making kitchens and 56 security personnel were among the infected. “There is no question of closing the temple again for darshan, as the situation is under control”, Reddy added.

The shrine would continue to allow 12,000 devotees per day, as per previous restrictions.

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