New SOPs Aim to Contain Transmission of Covid-19 Amid Resumption of Social, Economic Activities: Centre

The aim of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for religious places, shopping malls, restaurants, hotel and offices is to instil appropriate behaviour among people to contain COVID-19 transmission chain while allowing resumption of social and economic activities, the Union health ministry said on Friday.

Accelerating efforts to restart long-stalled business activities to contain the economic cost of the pandemic, the Health Ministry on Friday released SOPs for reopening offices, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and religious places. Some of them have already re-opened in parts of the country and a few others are scheduled to re-start in the next phase of unlocking from next Monday.

Nevertheless, coronavirus cases and death toll in India continued to mount. A record jump of 9,851 cases and 273 fatalities in 24 hours took the country's COVID-19 tally on Friday to 2,26,770 and death toll to 6,348.

"The new guidelines aim to instil COVID-19 appropriate behaviour to contain the chain of transmission while allowing social and economic activity to resume," the health ministry said.

According to the SOPs, restaurants, hotels, places of worship and offices in COVID-19 containment zones will remain closed and only those outside these areas will be allowed to open.

Cinema halls, gaming arcades and children play areas in malls outside containment zones would be barred from opening. The SOPs included measures like allowing only asymptomatic staff, guests, customers and devotees on the premises, proper crowd management and maintaining effective and frequent sanitation, with a particular focus on lavatories, drinking and handwashing stations/areas.

Recorded devotional music or songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed. Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own mat or piece of cloth which they may take back with them, the SOPs stated.

"No physical offerings like prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc should be allowed inside the religious place," the ministry said, underlining that community kitchens, langars, 'Ann-Daan' etc at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food.

The number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 1,10,960 while 1,09,462 patients have recovered till Friday 8 AM with 5,355 having been cured in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said, adding the recovery rate was 48.27 per cent.