No singing, touching of idols: Centre’s SOP for curbing Covid-19 outbreak during festivals | 10 points

The Union health ministry on Tuesday issued the standard operating procedure (SOP) to contain the spread of Covid-19 during the celebration of upcoming festivities.

Releasing the ‘Standard Operating Procedures’, the ministry said that the period from October to December witnesses large gatherings for religious worship, fairs, cultural functions, processions, etc, and it is important that necessary preventive measures are followed for such events which may last a day, a week or more.

The guidelines call for festival celebrations in open-air venues with ample physical distancing between participants and oragnisers while following all precautions to curb Covid-19 spread. The guidelines prohibit social gatherings within containment zones and have asked persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years to stay at home.

Centre’s SOP for curbing Covid-19 outbreak during festivals in 10 points

1) Festive events shall be permitted only outside the containment zones, while people residing in the restricted areas may be encouraged to observe all festivals inside their homes and not move out, according to the ministry. Keeping in view the physical distancing norms, event sites should have adequate floor area and proper markings at all locations which are likely to be visited by the public, the SOPs said underlining that only those staff and visitors who are free of symptoms shall be allowed inside the venue.

2) In religious places, touching of statues/idols/holy books, etc shall not be allowed, the SOP said. As far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the SOPs stated.

3) All staff and visitors will be allowed entry only if they are using face cover/masks, which have to be worn by all at all times and physical distance of a minimum of six feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the venue, as far as feasible has to be followed. Specific markings for the purpose may be done. “In case of events that run for days or weeks, the crowd density doesn’t remain the same throughout and usually peaks around certain hours of the day and some previously known auspicious days. Planning for the event should specifically factor this so that crowds are regulated and managed to ensure physical distance and frequent sanitization,” the SOPs said.

4) In the case of rallies and immersion processions, the number of people should not exceed the prescribed limit and proper physical distancing and wearing of masks must be ensured. Events such as rallies, and processions spread over long distances may require the support of ambulance services, it underscored. The competent authority may implement additional measures within their jurisdiction as per their local assessment and in line with activities permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as per its orders issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 from time to time.

5) “Identify spatial boundaries and prepare a detailed site plan which would facilitate compliance with thermal screening, physical distancing, sanitization etc,” it said. Close-circuit cameras may be considered to monitor compliance of physical distance norms, wearing of masks at each venue.

6) In the case of rallies and processions, route planning, identification of immersion sites, ensuring cap on numbers, physical distancing, etc. must be planned and measures for enforcement outlined. All events must plan for medical care arrangements with linkages to the nearest hospitals to attend to health emergencies, the guidelines stated. According to the SOPs, the event sites should have a designated isolation room or space for isolating any person found symptomatic during the events, till such time that medical help is available.

7) Preferably multiple and separate entry and exit points for visitors shall be ensured, the ministry said adding the structure or venue for the event must also have adequate natural cross-ventilation and entrances should have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions.

8) Proper crowd management inside and outside premises like parking lots, waiting areas, stalls, eateries, etc. duly following physical distancing norms shall be ensured. For entry into religious places, footwear needs to be preferably taken off by the people inside their own vehicle. If needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual or family by the persons themselves, the guidelines said.

9) The SOPs outlined that seating arrangement in pandals, food courts and shows must ensure adequate physical distancing. Any shops, stalls or cafeteria outside and within the premises too shall follow physical distancing norms at all times and there should be arrangements for safe drinking water. Community kitchen managers and business owners of food outlets have been directed to ensure adherence to the highest level of personal and environmental hygiene all the time. The guidelines issued for theatre and cinema artists will apply to stage performers.

10) Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on commonly touched surfaces and areas including lavatories, drinking and handwashing stations/areas. Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, barricades, seats, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) should be made mandatory in all public utility common areas, the SOPs stated. Disinfection of premises has to be undertaken if any person is found positive.



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