As India is gradually exiting over two-month nationwide lockdown in wake of novel coronavirus outbreak in the country, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare issued fresh SOPs for religious places which are "get frequented by large number of people for spiritual solace."
As a common SOP, the government has said that people above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women are advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. For all the establishments, government has recommended ensuring proper social distancing and disinfection of spaces and wearing of masks. "Installation & use of Aarogya Setu App shall be advised to all," it added.
Under the guidelines, the MoHFW stated that religious places and places of worship in containment zones shall remain closed. "Only those outside containment zones will be allowed to open up during the ongoing," the health ministry said in a statement.
Establishing stringent rules for worshipers, the health ministry clearly stated, “Touching of statues/idols / holy books etc will not to be allowed. Large gatherings or congregation continue to remain prohibited. In view of potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed. No physical offerings like Prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc.to be allowed inside the religious place. Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mat or piece of cloth which they may take back with them.," the union health ministry guidelines said.
Also, community kitchens/langars / “Ann-daan", etc. at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food.
Individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet in public places as far as feasible and everyone should be using face covers or masks, it said. Staggering of visitors to be done, if possible.
Moreover, the new rules also stated shoes / footwear to be preferably taken off inside own vehicle. If needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual / family by the persons themselves.
The government of India had imposed a nationwide lockdown on 25 March in order to combat the novel coronviurs spread. Currently, the country is under the fifth phase of the lockdown which entails much more relaxations than the previous ones including rail, road and domestic air travel. However, the relaxations do not imply to the containment zones, which need to follow strict guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs from time to time.
Meanwhile, India saw the biggest single-day jump in daily coronavirus count with 9,304 people testing positive for Covid-19. The total number of coronavirus cases in the country increased to 216,919, according to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare data.
The fatalities from coronavirus pandemic crossed the grim milestone of 6,000-mark after 260 more deaths were recorded since Wednesday.