New Delhi: Ahead of opening of religious places on June 8 as part of ‘Unlock 1’ strategy after over 2 months of nationwide shutdown, Union Health Ministry on Thursday issued SOPs to contain the spread of COVID-19 at such venues.Also Read - Is Delta Variant of Coronavirus Linked to The Onset of New Diabetes Cases?

As per the guidelines, religious places inside containment zones shall remain closed for public and those outside will be allowed to open. Also Read - Third Wave of Corona May Hit India This Month, Likely to Peak in October: Experts Who Predicted Second Wave

Places of worship get frequented by a large number of people for spiritual solace and to prevent COVID-19 spread, it is important that required social distancing and other preventive measures are followed in those premises, the ministry said. Also Read - Hair Loss Due to COVID-19 - What You Immediately Need to Know

In view of the potential threat of the spread of the infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music or songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the Standard Operating Procedures stated.

Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own mat or piece of cloth which they may take back with them.

“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 ministry advised persons aged above 65, having comorbidities, pregnant woman and children below the age of 10 years to stay at home and avoid visiting religious places.

According to the SOPs, all religious places should ensure hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and make thermal screening provisions at the entrance mandatorily. They should allow only asymptomatic persons in the premises and allowing those using face cover or masks.

Audio and video clips to spread awareness on preventive measures for COVID-19 should be regularly played while posters on preventive measures should to be displayed prominently, it said.

“Staggering of visitors to be done, if possible. Foot wears to be preferably taken-off inside own vehicle. If needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual/ family by the persons themselves. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc, outside and within the premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times,” the SOPs stated.

The SOPs underlined maintaining physical distancing of a minimum of six feet at all times when queuing up for entry and washing hand and feet with soap and water before entering the premises.

“For air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which inter alia emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 C, relative humidity should be in the range of 40- 70 per cent, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate,” it said.

Touching of statues, idols and holy books should not be allowed and large gatherings remain prohibited.

According to the SOPs, spitting should be strictly prohibited and installation and use of Aarogya Setu App should be advised to all.

The management of the religious places must ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of the floors and other surfaces.

In case of a suspect or confirmed case in the premises, the ill person should be placed in a room or area and isolated from others and the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) should be informed, it said.

A risk assessment will be undertaken by the designated public health authority (district RRT/treating physician) and accordingly further action would be initiated regarding management of case, his/her contacts and need for disinfection, the SOP pointed out.

The premises should be disinfected if the person is found positive, it added.

(With agency inputs)