'Festive events to be permitted only outside containment zones'

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With the festive season posing a major challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Union Health Ministry has issued guidelines for large gatherings, including ensuring adequate area for events with a detailed site map and proper markings to maintain social distancing and not allowing touching of idols and holy books, to prevent the spread of infection.

Festive events shall be permitted only outside the containment zones, while people residing in the restricted areas may be encouraged to observe all festivals inside their homes and not move out, according to the ministry.

Releasing the ‘Standard Operating Procedures’, the ministry said that the period from October to December witnesses large gatherings for religious worship, fairs, cultural functions, processions, etc, and it is important that necessary preventive measures are followed for such events which may last a day, a week or more.

As far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the SOPs stated.

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 the public, the SOPs said underlining that only those staff and visitors who are free of symptoms shall be allowed inside the venue.

All staff and visitors will be allowed entry only if they are using face cover/masks, which have to be worn by all at all times and physical distance of a minimum of six feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the venue, as far as feasible has to be followed. Specific markings for the purpose may be done.

“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,” the SOPs said.

In the 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.

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