NEW DELHI, June 16 (Xinhua) -- Authorities in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh Wednesday reopened the iconic monument of love, Taj Mahal, for tourists, officials said.
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) world heritage site was closed on April 16 this year as the country witnessed its worst health crisis due to the second wave.
The monument was closed for two months in the wake of the increasing number of COVID-19 cases and related deaths.
"Taj Mahal was reopened for public including tourists and new guidelines have been issued for the visitors," an official in Agra said. "As per new guidelines, only 650 people will be allowed inside the monument at one point of time in order to ensure COVID-19 appropriate behavior is strictly followed."
According to officials, teams will remain deployed inside the premises to monitor the crowd at all the time and the area will be sanitized three times a day. The visitors will be subjected to thermal screening at the gates of the monument and have to wear masks.
As per the new order, no ticket counter on the premises will be opened and visitors have to book tickets online.
"The visitors should also carry their own water bottles and hand sanitizers," the official said.
The Taj Mahal was first closed on March 17 last year during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, following which it was reopened on Sept. 21 with several restrictions.
According to India's culture ministry, tens of thousands used to visit the Taj Mahal every day.
Previously the Taj Mahal was closed during wars. However, officials said the closure had not been so long.
Reports said prior to COVID-19 outbreak, Taj Mahal attracted seven million visitors every year with a large number of foreign tourists.
The revenue generated from the monument sites contributes massively to the revenue of the Uttar Pradesh government.
On Monday, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) issued an order where it allowed all centrally protected monuments, museums and sites to re-open from June 16. A total of 3,693 monuments and 50 museums were opened across the country.
India is in the grip of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the cases are increasing with each passing day.
India Wednesday said the number of COVID-19 cases in the country has reached 29,633,105 and the death toll stands at 379,573.
Globally India is the second worst-hit country due to the COVID-19 pandemic.