Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray announced today that places of religious worship in the state will reopen from Monday (November 16).
However, religious places/places of worship for the public in containment zones shall remain closed. Only those religious places which are outside containment zones will be allowed to open up.
All religious places have been shut in the state since the COVID-19 lockdown in March.
The Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) released by the state government stressed on public health safety measures and COVID-19 protocols that need to be followed as religious places are frequented by large number of people for spiritual solace.
Guidelines have been framed on physical distancing, crowding, wearing of face mask, timings, staggering of people in queue, distribution of time slots, entry for asymptomatic people, conduct of thermal screening, provision for hand sanitisers, washing stations, premises sanitation, community kitchens, Covid tests for workers among highly exposed groups, and others.
Physical offering of 'prasad', distribution or sprinkling of holy water is not allowed.
Here are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) released by the state government of Maharashtra on preventive measures to contain spread of Covid19 in religious places/places of worship:
General preventive measures
1. Required social distancing to be followed inside premises in view of the potential threat of the spread of the infection,
2. Persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant woman, and children below 10 years of age are not allowed inside places of worship.
3. Public health safety measures need to be observed by all works and visitors at all places at all times.
4. Individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet as far as feasible
5. Use of face covers/masks is mandatory
6. Hand washing with soap
7. Use of hand sanitisers with alcohol-based liquid
8. Respiratory etiquettes (covering of mouth and nose with tissue/hand kerchief/flexed elbow while coughing/sneezing)
9. Proper disposing of used tissues
10. Self-monitoring of health by all. Reporting of any illness to district/state helpline.
11. Spitting prohibited. Penalth may be imposed as a deterrant
12. Use of Arogya Sethu app advised for all
All religious places shall also ensure
13. Sanitizer dispensers at the entrance and thermal screening provision
14. Only asymptomatic persons allowed
15. Compulsory use of face masks
16. Posters on preventive measures about Covid19 to be displayed prominently
17. Use of audio and video clips to spread awareness
18. Number of people allowed in a particular time slot to be done by respective trust/board
19. Shoes/footwear preferably taken off inside devotees’ own vehicle
20. Social distancing norms to be followed at shops, parking lots, malls outside premises
21. Specific markings to maintain distancing in queue
22. Separate entry and exit areas
23. Management to ensure minimum physical distancing of 6 feet in queue
24. Devotees need to wash their hands and feet before entering premises
25. Ventilation, cross ventilation, air conditioning need to be adequate inside the premises
26. Touching of statues, idols, holy books not allowed
27. Large gathering/congregation of people prohibited
28. Recorded devotional music/songs may be played. Choir/singing groups not allowed
29. Devotees should bring their own prayer mat. Common mat not allowed
30. No physical offerings like prasad/holy water
31. Physical distancing norms to be maintained by community kitchens/langars while preparing and distributing food
32. Proper sanitation needs to be maintained and lavatories and hand washing areas
33. Frequent cleaning and disinfecting the areas. Floors should be cleaned multiple times
34. Proper disposal of used face covers/masks/gloves by devotees
35. Workers and personnel in highly exposed places need to have Covid test done once before joining the duty and after that once a week
36. Each worship place should give an undertaking to Police/Collector that they adhere to number, space and distance protocol
In case of a suspect/confirmed case of Covid19 in the premises:
37. a. An ill person should be isolated from others
38. b. An ill person should be examined by a doctor
39. c. Nearest hospital/clinic should be immediately informed
40. d. Further action to be initiated by public health authority after assessing risk
41. e. Management of case/his or her contacts should be initiated
42. Disinfection of the premises to be taken up if the person is found positive