Masks, 6-ft distance in public locations: Centre points steering for COVID-time festivities

Aditi Tandon

Tribune News Service

New Delhi, October 7

Ahead of the festive season starting soon, the Centre on Wednesday issued detailed guidelines asking people to wear masks and maintain 6-ft compulsory physical distance when they participate in public gatherings and events.

The Centre has also asked people above 65 years, children below 10 and pregnant women not to venture out.

Besides, the guidelines mandate that there should be no mass festive events in containment zones and people living there should be encouraged to observe festivals at homes.

“The months of October to December are time for festivities that witness gatherings of a large number of people in specified locations for religious worship, fairs, rallies, exhibitions, cultural functions and processions, etc. These events may last a day or a week or more. To prevent spread of COVID-19 infection, it is important that necessary preventive measures are followed for such events,” said the Centre in the SOPs which require states to identify spatial boundaries and prepare detailed site plans to facilitate compliance with thermal screening, physical distancing and sanitisation to venues.

“In case of events that run for days or weeks, the crowd density doesn’t remain the same and usually peaks around certain hours and 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 sanitisation,” the Centre said.

The guidance adds that in case of rallies and immersion processions the number of people should not exceed a prescribed limit and physical distancing and wearing of masks must be ensured.

Visitors to venues are to be allowed only after thermal screening.

Among generic preventive measures the guidelines require everyone to maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet in public places; wear masks; practice frequent hand washing with soap and follow respiratory etiquette.

The guidelines bar touching of statues, idols and holy books in religious venues and add that, “In view of potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music and songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed.”

The guidelines come at a time when Kerala has suddenly reported a massive surge in new cases linked to Onam festivities.

Of the over 72,000 new cases reported today, Maharashtra, Karnataka and Kerala accounted for more than half.

India’s total cases neared 6.8 million today with 1.05 lakh deaths.

Although recovery rate has surged to 85 pc, much of the recent gains in keeping active infections below 10 lakh for 16 straight days would depend on how India fares during festivals and if people exercise precautions.

Of the 6.7 million cases as of today, over 5.7 million have recovered.

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