Thousands of people are expected to descend on a religious temple this week for one of the important Hindu festivals of the year.

Bhaktivedanta Manor in Letchmore Heath will host the annual Janmashtami event from Wednesday (August 12) until Sunday with thousands of worshippers expected to attend.

The celebratory event, held at the Hare Krishna temple on the outskirts of Bushey, is thought to be the largest of its kind outside India and can attract up to 60,000 visitors - but the number of attendees and tone of the event will be very different this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, online ticket sales suggest at least 9,000 people will be attending the manor over the next few days.

Hillingdon Times:

Bhaktivedanta Manor

According to its website and Eventbrite page, the five-day event at Bhaktivedanta Manor is ticket-only and visitors must abide by a number of rules to keep people safe from coronavirus.

These include:

• Every visitor must have a ticket, which is free. The website states people will not be allowed in without a ticket.

• Attendees must wear a face mask.

• Attendees will have their temperature checked on the door. Anyone exceeding 37.8 degrees Celsius will not be allowed in and neither will those they are with.

• Hands will be sanitised before entry

• Attendees are asked to maintain two metres distances from people outside of their party.

• Attendees are not allowed to stop and talk to people outside of their party.

• Attendees are asked to refrain from singing.

• Attendees are told not to touch Deities and instead fold their hands as a form of acknowledgement.

• Anyone, or members of their household, who is experiencing or has experienced coronavirus symptoms in the last 14 days is asked not to attend.

Hillingdon Times:

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visited Bhaktivedanta Manor in December last year, along with Priti Patel

Festivities this year will be restricted. Worshippers will be allowed in the prayer room and they will be allowed to visit the New Gokul Farm.

Visits to the manor have been split up into half-hourly sessions and attendees must book tickets for a particular time slot.

There are 81 half-hour sessions between Wednesday and Sunday, of which 61 have sold out, according to Eventbrite.

The booking system suggests each session can cater for a minimum of 150 people.

The exact number of people attending is unknown but ticket sales suggest around 10,000.

Hillingdon Times:

Credit: Google

Bhaktivedanta Manor says on its website that its booking system has been "working well" since June 29 and it has been "hailed" as being safe and effective, by local authorities and visitors alike.

Visakha dasi, temple president of Bhaktivedanta Manor, said: "This year Janmashtami at Bhaktivedanta Manor is not a festival per se -- it's completely different from previous years.

"Between August 12th and 16th, guests will have the opportunity to offer prayers before our shrine using a queuing system with two meters between families.

"At no time will members of different families congregate, and only a few families will be in the shrine hall at any given time.

"Everyone is requested to wear a mask and to refrain from touching any surface. After brief private prayers, guests will exit the Manor grounds."

Hillingdon Times: The marquee has been erected every year at Bhaktivedanta Manor, in Hilfield Lane, since 2002

Jim McManus, director of Public Health at Hertfordshire County Council, said: "In light of Covid-19, Bhaktivedanta Manor has reduced the number of people attending their annual five-day Krishna Janmashtami event dramatically.

"Agencies including the Public Health team, Police, Fire, Environmental Health, Hertsmere Borough Council and Public Health England have been working with the organisers to ensure the event happens safely and complies strictly with the Covid specific law on public gatherings.

"Robust measures have been put in place and the temple authorities have worked hard to address and mitigate risk at every stage of the event. After a multi-agency discussion with the organisers, I am satisfied that detailed risk assessments have been completed and effective protocols for infection prevention and control have been put in place.

"Arrangements are also in place for contact tracing for those attending the event should anyone become infected."

Hillingdon Times:

There have been recently identified positive cases of Covid-19 in Hertsmere and Watford

The latest published coronavirus rate figures for Hertsmere are the highest it has been in the borough for a month - although the rate is low compared to other places in the country.

In the seven days up to August 7, government figures show ten new cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Hertsmere, which is a rate of 9.5 per 100,000 people.

In the seven days up to July 31, just one case was identified in the borough.

The rate in Watford in the seven days up to August 7 is 10.4, which is equivalent to ten new cases.

Hertsmere has experienced the highest number of coronavirus deaths in Hertfordshire and during the peak of the pandemic, it had the highest coronavirus death rate in the country.

The death of a worshipper at Bhaktivedanta Manor on March 9 was the sixth confirmed Covid-19 death in the whole of the UK at the time.