With festivals round the corner, the union health ministry on Tuesday issued Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) on preventive measures to contain spread of covid-19 during festivities.
The months of October to December are time for festivities that witness gatherings of large number of people in specified locations for religious worship, fairs, rallies, exhibitions, cultural functions, 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, the government highlighted. However, the festive activities will not be allowed in the containment zones.
The festivals, fairs, rallies, exhibitions, cultural functions, processions and plays/ concerts associated with these festivities are mass events.
Hence the government advised some administrative requirements for the events. For holding such events the government has said that the planners should Identify spatial boundaries and prepare a detailed site plan which would facilitate compliance with thermal screening, physical distancing, sanitization etc.
The SOPS have kept in mind that 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,” said the government guidelines.
“In 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. In any case, the number of such rallies and the distance covered by them may be kept within manageable limits,”’the government said adding that events such as rallies, and processions spread over long distances may require support of ambulance services.
Events planned to last for many days or weeks such as exhibitions, fairs, puja pandals, ramlila pandals or concerts and plays would have to have adequate measures to ensure a cap on physical numbers. Staggered timings and restricted entry may be considered according to the guidelines and volunteers should be appropriately stationed to ensure thermal scanning, physical distancing and wearing of masks.
The government has said that close circuit cameras etc. may be considered to monitor compliance of physical distance norms, wearing of masks at each venue.
In case of rallies and processions, route planning, identification of immersion sites, ensuring cap on numbers, physical distancing etc. must be planned beforehand and measures for enforcement outlined, the guidelines said.
The government has advised that a plan should be prepared well in advance about conduct of each activity (religious places, rallies, processions, cultural shows, fairs etc.), with all relevant stakeholders including event organizers, business owners, market associations, etc.
For the events the guidelines state that preferably multiple and separate entry and exits for visitors shall be ensured. The structure/space/venue for the event must also ensure adequate natural cross-ventilation, the government guidelines said.
“Entrances to have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions. Only those staff and visitors who are free of symptoms shall be allowed inside the venue. Anyone found symptomatic during thermal screening should be politely refused entry and advised to seek immediate medical care,” the government said.
Seating arrangement in the pandaals, food courts, shows etc. must ensure adequate physical distancing according to the guidelines. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the premises too shall follow physical distancing norms at all times. Arrangements for safe drinking water, if required, should be made (preferably with provision for disposable cups/glasses) in the event premises, the government said.
In religious places, touching of statues/idols / holy books etc. shall not be allowed. 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, according to the guidelines.
“As we approach festival and winter season which is conducive for spread of diseases such as influenza, we need to be extra cautious. We have told all states to ensure effective implementation of public health strategies in the fight against Covid-19,” said Rajesh Bhushan, Secretary, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.