COVID-19: India suspends pilgrimage to Kartarpur Sahib in Pakistan

The total number of positive cases of COVID-19 in India has gone up to 93 as of 15 March. India has reported two COVID-19 related deaths to date.

The Indian home ministry on Sunday suspended pilgrimage to Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak. According to a home ministry circular, the pilgrimage to the Gurudwara will be suspended starting Sunday midnight until further notice.

A corridor connecting Dera Baba Nanak in India’s Punjab with Kartarpur Sahib Gurudwara in Pakistan, both Sikh pilgrimage sites, was inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in November last year. Indian pilgrims are allowed visa-free travel to the Gurudwara, which holds major relevance as it is the resting place of Guru Nanak – the founder of Sikhism.

A total of 12,000 pilgrims witnessed the inauguration of the corridor by PM Modi.

A spokesperson from the Indian home ministry said, “In the wake of the COVID-19 India outbreak, as a precautionary measure to contain and control spread of the disease, the travel and registration for Sri Kartarpur Sahib is temporarily suspended from 00:00 hours on 16 March 2020, until further orders".

India’s suspension of pilgrimages across the corridor comes a day after Pakistan banned Pakistani nationals from using the corridor.

After an apex-level meeting of the National Security Committee chaired by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Friday, measures were announced to tackle the COVID-19 outbreak. One of the decisions was to ban Pakistani nationals from using the Kartarpur corridor. Pakistan, however, allowed Indian pilgrims to use the corridor. There are 28 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Pakistan.

In light of the COVID-19 outbreak, on 14 March, India also suspended passenger operations on its borders with Nepal, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and Myanmar.

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