Maha CM hints at reopening religious places after Diwali

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(Eds: adds details) Mumbai, Nov 8 (PTI) Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray on Sunday hinted at reopening places of religious worship, saying a standard operating procedure for avoiding crowds and ensuring physical distancing there will be drafted after Diwali.

In a webcast, Thackeray said he is getting flak for going slow on reopening of places of religious worship.

'I am ready for brickbats if it ensures good health and safety of citizens. How to avoid crowds and ensure physical distancing in places of worship will be worked out and a standard operating procedure will be drafted after Diwali.

'We are so involved in offering prayers and may neglect COVID-19 safety protocols. What if a coronavirus positive person infects senior citizens from our families who visit the places of worship he said.

Thackeray said wearing of masks will be mandatory in places of worship. He also appealed people to avoid bursting firecrackers in public places. 'I don't want to enforce a ban.

Let us have faith and trust in each other,' he said.

He said Delhi is seeing a surge in coronavirus cases, adding itis said pollution was the cause. 'Let us have self control and restrain from bursting firecrackers which will lead to pollution.Let us not waste nine months' of hard work against the pandemic during four days of Diwali celebrations,' he said.

Thackeray said the state is opening up slowly. 'But we have to be cautious and ensure there is no second wave (of the pandemic),' he added.

'Crowds seen in the market places is a sign of life returning to normalcy but dont be complacent. We have no option but to wear masks, ensure physical distancing and continue washing hands till a vaccine is found,' he said.

'The forthnight after Diwali will be crucial. Let us not invite a second lockdown. If a coronavirus positive person moves in a crowd without wearing a face mask, he will infect around 400 persons and those 400 will in turn infect several more,' he said. PTI MR VT VT VT