Union govt allows 100% seating in theatres, releases new SOPs

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The Union Government on Saturday released a new Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for theatres across the country allowing them to have 100% occupancy. Seating arrangement inside the auditorium cinemas, theatres and multiplexes is to be allowed upto 100% seating capacity from February 1, the government has said. In the past, specific states, including Tamil Nadu, have had to rescind a similar decision after opposition from both the Union government and the general public.

As per the latest guidelines, the government has listed public health measures that are to be followed to reduce the risk of transmission of COVID-19 and stated that measures need to be observed by all (workers and visitors) at all times.

These include adequate physical distancing of at least 6 feet to be followed outside the auditoriums, common areas and waiting areas at all times, use of face covers or masks at all times, and that thermal screening of visitors or staff is to be carried out at entry points. Only asymptomatic individuals shall be allowed to enter the premises, the government has said.

Theatres and cinema halls have been asked to ensure that provisions for hand sanitization should be made available at all entry points and in work areas and designated queue markers are made available for entry and exit of the audience from the auditorium and the premises. The Exit should be done in a staggered row-wise manner to avoid crowding, the government has said.

Sufficient time interval between successive screenings on a single screen as well as on various screens in a multiplex shall be provided to ensure row-wise staggered entry and exit of the audience, the SOP says

According to the SOPs, films cannot be exhibited in containment zones. Individual states and union territories meanwhile may consider proposing additional measures as per their field assessment.

Staggered show timings shall be followed for multiple screens to avoid crowding. The show commencement time, intermission period and finish time of a show at any screen shall not overlap with the commencement time, intermission period or finish time of a show at any other screen in a multiplex, the government said.

Inside the cinema hall, the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30°C and the relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70%. Re-circulation of air to be avoided to the extent possible and intake of fresh air and cross-ventilation should be ensured as much as possible.

The government has also asked cinema halls to encourage digital no-contact transactions for the issue, verification and payments for tickets, food, and beverages, etc. by using online bookings, use of e-wallets, QR code scanners, etc. Customers’ contact number shall be taken at the time of booking of tickets to facilitate contact tracing.

The purchase of tickets at the box office shall be open throughout the day and advance booking shall be allowed to avoid crowding at the sale counters. A sufficient number of counters at the box office shall be opened with adequate physical distancing norms, to prevent crowding during physical booking of tickets.

Floor markers shall be used for physical distancing during queue management at the box office, the government said. Proper sanitisation and cleaning of the premises should be carried out by the staff and employees of the theatres and cinema halls and the employees should wear a face mask at all times. 

Multiple sale counters in food and beverage areas should be made available wherever possible and one line systems to be followed using floor stickers to maintain physical distancing at every sale counter.

The government has stated that there should be proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises and physical distancing norms should be ensured. The number of people in the elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining physical distancing norms.

Efforts shall be made to avoid overcrowding in the common areas, lobbies and washrooms during the intermission. The audience may be encouraged to avoid movement during the intermission and longer intermissions may be used to allow the audience seated in different rows of the auditorium to move in a staggered manner, the government said.