A day after the Centre issued SOPs for the reopening of hotels, malls and religious locations, many prime places of worship here have started internal preparations to open their doors to devotees — from installing full body sanitisation chambers to marking spots on the floors to ensure social distancing- during the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the administrations of many such places of worship are waiting for the Delhi government’s guidelines before taking final decisions on when to start receiving the faithful.
Religious places within containment zones shall remain closed for public and the ones outside these zones will be allowed to open from June 8, according to the SOP issued by the Union Health Ministry on Thursday to contain the spread of COVID-19 at such venues.
The Standard Operating Process (SOP) says it is important that social distancing and other preventive measures are followed strictly.
While all the 14 ISKCON temples in Delhi will not be opened on June 8, they have, however, started preparations to follow the Centre’s guidelines.
“On the basis of feedback we have got from our temples in other states and our discussion with other major temples in the capital, we have decided not to open ISKCON temples in Delhi on June 8. We will wait and watch and decide after a couple of days," Yudhishthir Govind Das, national communication director, ISKCON, told PTI.
“We have installed full body sanitisation chambers in the temple premises. We are also marking spots on the floors to ensure social distancing. There will be time limit to sit in the temple and we will abide by all the guidelines strictly whenever we open the temples," he said.
The Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee has also started sanitisation of all the Gurdwaras. However, they will wait for the Delhi government to issue guidelines before deciding when they will start receiving devotees again.
“We have already started preparations and all the Gurdwaras are being sanitised. There would be maximum entry and exit gates. We will also ensure social distancing and install sanitisation stands. But we cannot go further till we get proper guidelines from Delhi government," Manjinder Singh Sirsa, President of DSGMC, said.
“I have been repeatedly asking for guidelines as it would be difficult for us to get ready at the last moment if there are any changes in the SOP issued by the Centre. Like whether sitting inside the premises would be allowed or not, if yes, what would be the time limit, what would be the opening and closing times, etc. We need to know details, otherwise people would gather outside Gurdwaras on June 8," he said.
Sirsa also suggested that there should not be any time limit to visit places of worship in order to avoid rush of devotees.
The Centre has empowered states to prohibit certain activities or put suitable restrictions if they deem it necessary for containment of the virus. Delhi is yet to issue guidelines but a senior Delhi government official has indicated that a decision will be taken on June 7.
“Till now we have followed the centre''s guidelines regarding lockdown. As far as unlock is concerned, the centre has given the flexibility to states. We will take a call on that on June 7," said the official.
The Shahi Imam of Fatehpuri Masjid has been requesting people to avoid coming to the mosque for the next two-three months.
“We will certainly follow the SOP but it would be better that people worship at home only for next two-three months and avoid coming to mosques. Islam also says that first take care of your health," said Dr Mufti Mukarram Ahmed.
"Despite that if people want to come, they should carry their own cap, soap, towel and drinking water. They should perform wazu (the ritual of washing hands before namaz) at home and spend minimum time at the mosque. For social distancing, we are making silver and green marks inside the mosque," he said.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Delhi is waiting for clear guidelines from the Delhi government regarding community worship.
"It is not clear whether the SOP include community worship or is it for individual prayers. We have holy masses in the church, like Sacred Heart Cathedral has six masses on Sundays and three on weekdays. So what are the guidelines regarding those," said Fr Savarimuthu Shankar, PRO of the organisation.
"There are around 50 Catholic churches in Delhi and all will follow these guidelines. We have to ensure that the virus does not spread from places of worship," he said.