Pilgrimage to the holy cave shrine of Mata Vaishno Devi in Jammu resumed on Sunday, nearly five months after being suspended on March 18 due to coronavirus pandemic.

However, there will be some restrictions including a cap on the number of people allowed to visit the shrine every day, keeping in view the safety guidelines to curb the spread of Covid-19 disease.

In the first week of the pilgrimage, 2,000 pilgrims will be allowed of which 1,900 will be from Jammu and Kashmir and the remaining 100 from outside the Union Territory. The pilgrims will be allowed to undertake the yatra only after online registration.

“The government has come out with a detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) and the pilgrims are requested to follow the guidelines for their own safety and the safety of others,” Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board CEO Ramesh Kumar said.

He added that those from Covid-19 red zones will be given permission for the pilgrimage only if they provide negative test reports. It will be mandatory for the pilgrims to wear face mask and install the Aarogya Setu app on their mobile phones before proceeding for the yatra.

The CEO added that the yatra will move in a unidirectional manner. “The traditional route from Katra to Bhawan via Banganga, Adhkuwari and Sanjichhat will be used for going up and Himkoti route-Tarakote Marg will be used for coming back from the Bhawan,” he said on Saturday.

Expressing happiness at the reopening of the temple for devotees, a pilgrim said that it was important to follow rules during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’m happy that people can visit the temple once again,” Prashant Sharma, one of the first pilgrims to visit the shrine said.

“The shrine management has laid out the rules clearly, and pilgrims are also following them properly. It is important to follow rules during the COVID-19 pandemic. If rules are not followed then the darshans will be closed soon,” added Sharma.

A massive sanitisation campaign was launched by the shrine board right from Katra to Bhawan before the resumption of the pilgrimage.

The shrine board has said that the cap on the number of visitors to the temple will be reviewed after the first week and a decision will be taken accordingly.