By Bizodisha Bureau, Bhubaneswar, June 24, 2020: Odisha on Wednesday announced to launch a drive to test around 5,000 people associated with Lord Jagannath’s Car Festival (Rath Yatra) for Covid-19, including servitors, police personnel and municipality staff.

The Rath Yatra was held at Puri only after the nod of the Supreme Court on Tuesday without any devotees. Only servitors and police pulled the three grand chariots from Jagannath Temple to Gundicha Temple.

The Temple Administration will set up an exclusive health care centers for the families of servitors.

Prior to the Car Festival, a massive sample collection exercise was conducted on Monday night and one servitor had tested positive, officials said adding that 16 people, including his family members, were identified during contact tracing.

“Only one of the over 2,000 servitors, whose samples had been collected, tested positive for Covid-19 on June 22. He has been kept away from the rituals, and admitted to a special hospital,” a health department official said.

The samples of those he came in contact with have been collected and sent for tests.

About 2,500 servitors will undergo a second round of Covid-19 tests and the process will be completed by June 28 before Lord Jagannath and his celestial siblings’ chariots make a move for returning to the temple, the ritual known as ‘Bahuda Jatra’.

Puri district which remained a green zone till May has witnessed a spike in Covid-19 cases, which now stand at 224 including a death. The district has 71 active cases, including the servitor, official data said.

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