Recorded devotional songs to replace singing groups in festival season (Lead)

The Health Ministry on Tuesday issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) on preventive measures to contain spread of COVID-19 during festivities including a detailed site plan and regulation of crowds. As per the norms, feasible recorded devotional music/songs should be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed.

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 ministry said.

Various generic precautionary measures have been given which can be adopted in addition to specific measures to be taken at locations to prevent spread of COVID-19. No festive events will be allowed in containment zones. Persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home. This applies to the event managers and staff as well.

The festivals, fairs, rallies, exhibitions, cultural functions, processions and plays/concerts associated with these festivities are mass events. Among the administrative requirement advised are to identify spatial boundaries and prepare a detailed site plan which would facilitate compliance with thermal screening, physical distancing, sanitization.

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.

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.

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 should have adequate measures to ensure a cap on physical numbers. Staggered timings and restricted entry may be considered. Volunteers should be appropriately stationed to ensure thermal scanning, physical distancing and wearing of masks.

The generic preventive measures that include simple public health measures are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed by all; the event managers, the organisational staff and the public visiting the festivities and are that individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet in public places as far as feasible.

Use of face covers/masks will be mandatory, practice frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be made wherever feasible. iv. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly.

The guidelines prescribe 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 organisers, business owners, market associations.

Festive events shall be permitted only outside the containment zones. Organisers/staff/visitors from containment zones shall not be permitted. People residing inside containment zones may be encouraged to observe all festivals inside their homes and not move out.

Keeping in view the physical distancing norms, event sites should have adequate floor area and proper markings at all locations which are likely to be visited by public. iv. Adequate manpower shall be deployed/ arranged by the organisers to ensure observance to physical distancing norms and other preventive measures at all times.

Adequate number of ticket counters shall be planned to facilitate compliance with physical distancing norms. Event organisers/business owners may make suitable provisions for contact less payment. In addition, a simple do’s and dont’s advisory may be circulated/displayed prominently at each event venue. Posters/standees/AV media on preventive measures from COVID-19 must be displayed prominently at the event sites.

For entry and exit to the event site, 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. Entrances should 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. All staff and visitors to be allowed entry only if using face cover/masks. The face cover/mask has to be worn by all at all times while in public places.

For entry into the religious places, shoes/footwear should be preferably taken off inside own vehicle. If needed, they should be kept in separate slots for each individual/family by the persons themselves.

Seating arrangement in the pandals, food courts, shows etc. must ensure adequate physical distancing. 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.

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.

Community kitchens/langars/”Ann-daan”, etc. at event venue should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food. Community kitchen managers and business owners of food outlets have to ensure adherence to highest level of personal and environmental hygiene all the time, especially at the time of preparing, serving /eating meals and after disposal.

Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises will have to be maintained with particular focus on commonly touched surfaces/areas including lavatories, drinking and hand washing stations/areas.

Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, que barricades, seats, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all public utility common areas.

Visitors and staff should be advised to dispose of used face covers/masks in covered bins available at the premises. The waste thus generated may be disposed of in accordance with the hazardous waste disposal guidelines.