Dalai Lama calls 50K for Bodhgaya congregation amid Covid scare

An estimated 50,000 Buddhist devotees from India and abroad are expected to attend a congregation in Bodhgaya.

Patna | Updated: 23 December, 2022 12:05 pm IST
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama reached Bodhgaya on Thursday.

Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama will preside over a religious congregation of around 50,000 people in Bihar’s Bodhgaya even as a new health threat posed by a new variant of Covid-19 lurks over India.

The spiritual leader reached the Tibetan temple in Bodhgaya on Thursday for a month-long stay. He will impart religious teachings during the congregation.

An estimated 50,000 Buddhist devotees from India and abroad are expected to attend the events.

Meanwhile, authorities have sounded an alert regarding the Covid scare at Gaya airport.

The massive gathering has sparked fears that devotees from countries witnessing a surge due to the emergence of the BF.7 strain of the highly contagious Omicron variant of the Coronavirus virus. A similar religious gathering of Muslim believers in March 2020 had emerged as a Covid hotspot and was blamed for a sudden rise in infections in the country.

BF.7 variant has been blamed for the devastating wave of Covid-19 infections in China, which has overwhelmed the health infrastructure in several cities.

In view of the congregation, authorities have been instructed to ensure that every foreign traveller is tested for Covid-19 infection at the airport through the rapid antigen test method.

As per the government guidelines, wearing masks is not mandatory in the country through Prime Minister, though Prime Minister Narendra Modi and several other top leaders have called for more precautions to keep the disease at bay.

As per the Central government guidelines, international passengers will mandatorily undergo thermal screening at Gaya airport.

“In view of the large gathering, I appeal to people to wear face masks in order to stop any possible spread of Covid-19. Since the government has not issued any new guideline, wearing of face mask cannot be mandatory,” the district civil surgeon told The New Indian.

Currently, direct flights are being operated to and from four countries, Myanmar, Bhutan, Thailand and Vietnam – all with significant strength of Buddhist believers. However, devotees from other countries like Japan will also attend the event.

A special focus has been accorded to passengers arriving from Vietnam, according to sources.

In November last year, three passengers from Myanmar were sent back after they tested positive for the disease at the airport.

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