The Taj Mahal and other centrally protected monuments, which were closed two months ago in the wake of the second Covid-19 wave, will reopen on June 16, the Archaeological Survey of India (ASI) said. Visitors will be able to book entry tickets online and no offline booking facility will be available, an ASI official said.

“Considering the prevailing situation, it has been decided that all the Centrally Protected Monuments/Sites and Museums (under ASI) shall be opened from 16.06.2021,” MoS for Culture and Tourism Prahlad Singh Patel said in an order.

With the second wave of Covid-19 making its presence felt, the government had ordered closure of all centrally protected monuments and museums, including Taj Mahal, Red Fort and Ajanta Caves, on April 15.

An order to this effect was issued by the ASI and later tweeted by Union Culture Minister Prahlad Patel. “Due to the prevailing Covid situation, it has been decided to close all centrally protected monuments, sites and museums under the ASI with immediate effect and till May 15 or until further orders,” the ASI said.

The monuments were closed for more than 100 days as part of the nationwide lockdown last year.

As many as 3,691 centrally protected monuments and archaeological sites maintained by the ASI were closed for visitors on March 17 last year. They were allowed to reopen from July 6, with the number of visitors being curtailed. Some “interior or vulnerable” parts of monuments remained out of bounds for visitors. Additionally, visitors were supposed to share their phone numbers at the entrance of monuments for the purposes of contact tracing, if required later.

Even as most other monuments were thrown open, the Taj Mahal – India’s most visited monuments which sees as many as 70-80 lakh visitors annually – remained closed till late September as it came under a “containment zone”, as per district authorities. Even as it reopened, the number of visitors was capped at 5,000 a day (in two slots), while that of other popular monuments was capped between 1,000 and 1,500.

Meanwhile, the Red Fort in Delhi continues to remain shut since January 19 in the wake of the bird flu cases reported inside the premises, followed by the January 26 violence by protestors, which caused extensive damage to its entry points and ticketing area.