Malls, restaurants, places of worship to open in Kerala from June 9

Thiruvananthapuram,Jun 5 (PTI) Easing the lockdown curbs in accordance with the Centre's guidelines, the Kerala government on Friday decided to allow functioning of malls, restaurants and places of worship, including the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, from June 9, but made it clear that the elderly and children will have to stay away from any such places and remain home.

The centre had on May 30 issued a notification on easing of restrictions at religious places, shopping malls, restaurants and at public offices from June 8.

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan told reporters here that shrines, malls, restaurants and other institutions can open on June 8 for disinfecting the place and it can start functioning from June 9, over two and half months after it was shut due to the COVID-19 induced lockdown.

The maximum number of people inside a place of worship will be decided as per its size.

'Only 15 people per 100 square metre, maintaining a six feet distance between each other, can be allowed but must restrict to a maximum of 100 people at a time in the premises,' Vijayan said.

The devotees would be allowed to offer prayers at the hill shrine of Lord Ayyappa through virtual queue and a maximum of 50 people would be allowed.

Children and aged would not be permitted at the temple, Vijayan said, adding that no handing over of 'prasad' or sprinkling of holy water will be allowed in any temple.

The name and other details of the visitors will be collected and the devotees need to carry their own pen for this purpose to the temple.

The chief minister said there will be thermal scans at Nilackal, Pamba and Sannidhanam at Sabarimala and special provision to perform 'Neyyabhishekam', a ritual of offering ghee to the deity.

There are restrictions to sing devotional songs in religious places and the state government suggested using a recorded version of the same.

The devotees should bring individual floor mats to offer prayers.

Vijayan said restaurants and food courts can function, but only with 50 per cent seating capacity and under strict health protocols, but urged that takeaways and home-delivery should be encouraged.

Disposable menu cards and paper napkins should be used, tables and seats should be disinfected after each customer leaves and waiters and other employees should be wearing masks.

'The hotels and restaurants should maintain a strict health protocol including separate entry and exit points, hand-wash, sanitiser facilities, disinfection of luggage, online fund transaction,' Vijayan said.

Cinema halls and play areas in malls will continue to remain closed.

'Matters were discussed with the religious leaders before finalising the decision. Masks, gloves, sanitisers, hand wash, social distancing and other health protocol should be strictly followed,' Vijayan said.

Meanwhile, the Indian Medical Association's (IMA) demand not to open places of worship and malls as it would only help in spreading the virus, was not accepted by the government.

'With the cases increasing, at this juncture, opening of religious places and malls would result in spread of viruses and it will be uncontrollable.

We are concerned as if there is increase in patients, the health system would be stretched and hospitals would be filled with patients like in other countries and states,' the IMA said.

Pointing out that 10 people had been infectedthrough contact on Friday, the chief minister said it means more care needs to be taken.

The number of patients will increase and the state government was taking necessary precautions to counter that, Vijayan asserted.

Kerala's COVID-19 new positive cases on a single day touched three digits for the first time with the state recording 111 infections on Friday, prompting the chief minister to term the situation as 'grim.' The total infection count in the state has touched 1,699 while 1.77 lakh are under observation. PTI RRT UDBN WELCOME UDBN WELCOME