Photo: Pexels
Photo: Pexels

NEW DELHI: With the onset of the festive season -- another major challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic -- the Union Health Ministry has fast-tracked guidelines that will serve as standard operating procedure.

To begin with, festive events will be permitted only outside containment zones, while people residing in restricted areas will be encouraged to observe all rituals indoors.

In religious places, touching of statues/idols/holy books etc. will be a strict no-no. To the extent possible, recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups will be barred.

Community kitchens/langars/ ‘Ann-daan’, etc. at venues should strictly follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food. The onus would be largely on kitchen managers and business owners of food outlets, who would have to adhere to highest levels of personal and ambient hygiene at all times, especially while preparing and serving meals.

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.

At religious places, footwear needs to be taken off inside vehicle or outside the premises and entrusted to a caretaker. Ideally, they should be kept in separate slots for each individual or family by the persons themselves, the guidelines have said.

Close-circuit cameras etc. may be considered to monitor compliance of physical distance norms, wearing of masks at each venue.

Events such as rallies and processions spread over long distances may require the support of ambulance services, it is underscored.

Preferably multiple and separate entry and exit points for visitors shall be ensured, the ministry has said, adding that 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.

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 state.

All staff and visitors will be allowed entry only if they are using face cover/masks, which have to be worn at all times; also, physical distance of a minimum of six feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the venue, has to be maintained.

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