World heritage monuments Taj Mahal and Agra fort which were closed since March 17, even before the nation-wide lockdown began, will reopen to the public on September 21.
Prabhu N Singh, District Magistrate of Agra, said that the reopening will be done with strict safety measures for COVID-19 following the protocols issued by the Central and UP government. Entry to the Taj Mahal will only be permitted for 5000 visitors every day and for Agra Fort, it will be limited to 2500 visitors, a sharp cut from the earlier numbers of 80,000 and 30,000 visitors per day respectively.
“All arrangements have already been made at these monuments as per the culture and healthcare ministries’ guidelines,” said Vasant K Swarnkar, ASI superintending archaeologist for Agra. He added that selling of tickets will be done by online mode through the website or mobile app of ASI, the entire premises will be sanitised twice a day, tourists will be advised to maintain social distancing at all times with a compulsion for masks, thermal checking and sanitising hands before entering. Furthermore, group photography will be prohibited and visitors will be only given a time limit of 3 hours and that Taj Mahal will remain closed on both Friday and Sunday whereas, Agra Fort will remain closed only on Sunday.
Arun Dang, Former chairman of Agra Tourism Guild, said that this is the first time in history when the Taj Mahal has remained closed for so long. “The extent of damage it has caused to the tourism industry of Agra is incalculable,” he said.
The Taj Mahal was among the first public places to be shut in light of the growing COVID-19 threat. The reopening of the monuments is expected to attract local tourists which will help with the currently dead tourism sector of the city which could use some boost.