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Bihar: Four Foreign Tourists Found COVID Positive Ahead of Dalai Lama's Sermons at Bodh Gaya

After getting the results, the district administration sounded high alert. It directed tourism and health department officials to be on alert mode to identify more such cases among thousands of foreign tourists flocking to Bodh Gaya these days.
Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama

Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama. Image Courtesy: PTI

Patna: Ahead of much-hyped religious sermons by Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya in Bihar after a gap of two years, four foreign nationals, including three from England and one from Maynmar, were found COVID-positive. It alerted the Gaya district administration and created panic among the thousands of tourists and local residents.

The tourists arrived at Gaya International Airport near Bodh Gaya to participate in religious sermons by Dalai Lama at the Kalachakra ground for three days from December 29-31. Their RT-PCR tests were taken at the airport, and a day later, the reports confirmed COVID.

”Four foreign tourists were found COVID-positive after random RT-PCR tests were done after arriving at the airport on December 23. Two have been isolated at a hotel in Bodh Gaya, one has returned to Delhi, and another is traceless,” Gaya Civil Surgeon Dr Ranjan Singh told NewsClick.

Singh admitted that the authorities are tracking the fourth tourist. He further said it was decided to increase the random RT PCR Test for foreign tourists after their arrival at the airport, and more RT-PCR Test centres have been set up for foreign tourists who had arrived last week.

After getting the results, the district administration sounded high alert. It directed tourism and health department officials to be on alert mode to identify more such cases among thousands of foreign tourists flocking to Bodh Gaya these days.

”We have increased surveillance and monitoring in Bodh Gaya and made use of masks mandatory for all those participating in religious sermons by Dalai Lama as a precautionary measure,” Gaya District Magistrate Thiyagarajan SM said.

However, a health official told NewsClick on the condition of anonymity that it is a serious matter that four foreign tourists found COVID positive were reportedly roaming in Bodh Gaya for over 24 hours; they must have come in close contact with several people, including other tourists and locals.

”If they have the new COVID variant, it might spread to others. We have no information about how many people they met and which places they visited”.

The administration has decided to identify their strain by conducting genome sequencing at the lab of the Patna-based government-run Indira Gandhi Institute of Medical Sciences (IGIMS).

According to a police official at Bodh Gaya police station, thousands of foreign tourists, mostly Buddhist devotees of the Dalai Lama, have already arrived in Bodh Gaya to participate in his religious teachings and offer prayers and rituals at Mahabodhi temple, considered the holiest shrine of Buddhism.

”Many more foreign tourists are likely to arrive in Bodh Gaya in the next two to three days and the new year because they have booked different hotels for their stay”.

As per reports,30,000 to 40,000 devotees, including foreign tourists from over two dozen countries, are expected to attend religious sermons by the Dalai Lama in Bodh Gaya.

Dalai Lama arrived at Bodh Gaya on December 20 for a month and has been staying at the Tibetan monastery. Security has been beefed up during his stay at Bodh Gaya, police officials said.

Bodh Gaya, about 110 km from Patna, is where the Buddha attained enlightenment over 2,500 years ago and has been turned into a mini-Tibet with the presence of a large number of Tibetan devotees all around this holy town, surrounded by villages.

Tibetan devotees, including hundreds of monks, clad in their traditional colours- maroon, orange, deep red and yellow colour robes, have outnumbered locals these days in Bodh Gaya. All roads have been filled with Tibetan devotees and foreign tourists.

Last week the state government alerted all the government and private hospitals, given COVID cases reportedly surged in the neighbouring country of China. It was advised to the hospitals to test all patients for COVID who complain of cold, cough, and breathlessness.

The government also directed random testing at airports, railway stations, bus stands and crowded public places, including markets across the state. A 15-bed COVID ward has been set up in IGIMS to treat suspected cases who may have been infected with the new variant.

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