Taj Mahal and Agra Fort, the popular heritage monuments of India, will be welcoming tourists from September 21 after six months of being shut to the public. These two UNESCO World Heritage sites have been closed since March 17, ahead of the nationwide lockdown implemented to contain the spread of Coronavirus.
Arun Dang, the former president of the Tourism Guild, reflected, “It is perhaps for the first time that the Taj Mahal, credited with attracting the largest number of tourists to India, has been closed for such a protracted period.”
The Agra administration is bent on abiding by the COVID-19 safety protocols issued by the Central and State Governments, as the country is reporting the highest single-day positive cases in the world.
As for the basic safety measures, people visiting the white marble mausoleum and red sandstone fort are required to wear face masks, sanitize their hands frequently, and follow social distancing. They need to purchase the entry tickets online or through the ASI phone app. Thermal screening of the visitors will take place at the entry gate.
Only a limited number of visitors will be allowed, to avoid crowding and ensure social distancing in the premises. The number is capped at 5,000 per day for a Taj Mahal tour and 2,500 a day for touring the Agra Fort. The visitors will be allowed entry in two slots – before 2 pm and after 2 pm. The Taj Mahal will allow 2500 before lunch and the rest after lunch. In the case of the Agra fort, 1300 people will be allowed in the morning and 1200 in the evening.
The guidelines stated that the Taj Mahal would be closed to public viewing on Fridays and Sundays, whereas the Agra Fort remains closed on Sundays.
Agra, a city known for its historical and architectural attractions, is visited by millions of tourists every year. But the outbreak of COVID-19 resulting in the suspension of travel and tourism has hit the city’s (as well as the country’s) economy hard. Even though the country is being gradually opened up for tourists, the revival of the tourism industry is a long way to go. The reopening of the Taj Mahal and Agra Fort is expected to snap the city’s tourism out of the COVID-induced lull.
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