Agra, September 21:

The Taj Mahal in Agra reopened this morning with strict coronavirus safety guidelines after being shut for tourists for over six months. The Agra Fort too reopened today.

Both world heritage sites were closed since March 17 due to the pandemic.

All safety guidelines issued by the centre will have to be followed while visiting the mausoleum and the fort, which include social distancing and sanitising of hands, Vasant Kumar Swarnkar, superintending archaeologist of the Archaeological Survey of India (Agra circle), had said in a statement to the media.

Only 5,000 tourists will be allowed each day at the Taj Mahal Р2,500 before 2 PM and the rest after. At Agra Fort, 2,500 tourists will be allowed every day, he said.

“Masks are mandatory to enter the monuments and all tickets must be purchased online. Ticket counters will not be open,” Mr Swarnkar said.

The Taj Mahal attracts seven million visitors each year with a large number of foreign tourists. The Agra Fort has nearly three million visitors in a year. The many monuments contribute massively to the revenue of Uttar Pradesh.

“It’s incredible and historical at the same time. This is the first time ever that Taj was shut for six months. We are here to witness the change. The new normal has to be expected and adopted for our good. I have come with my family, stood in the queue, got digital tickets, and all set to see Taj,” Nishant Vasisht, a visitor, told news agency ANI.

The move to reopen the heritage sites came as more relaxations kicked in after the government announced Unlock4, even though coronavirus cases in the country are on a steep rise.

Uttar Pradesh is the fifth most-affected state in the country with over 3.48 lakh COVID-19 cases.