New Delhi: As India readies for a new normal after a 70-day stringent lockdown and enters into Unlock 1, the union health ministry on Thursday released the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for workplaces, shopping malls, religious places, hotels and restaurants to limit spread of Covid-19.
All of the above will remain closed in the containment areas across the country and only those outside containment zones will be allowed to open up as outlined by states.
The SOPs outline various generic precautionary measures to be adopted in addition to specific measures to be taken at particular places to prevent spread of coronavirus. As a common SOP, the government said that people above 65 years of age, people with comorbidities, pregnant women are advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. For all the establishments, government has recommended ensuring proper social distancing and disinfection of spaces and wearing of masks.
Visiting shopping malls will be a different experience now onwards, especially for children as the gaming arcades, children play areas shall remain closed and so will the cinema halls inside shopping malls. At shopping malls, staggering of visitors must be done, if possible, state the guidelines.
Even though the government has allowed the religious places to open up, there will be stringent rules for worship. “Touching of statues/idols / holy books etc. not to be allowed. Large gatherings/congregation continue to remain prohibited. In view of potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed. No physical offerings like Prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc.to be allowed inside the religious place,” the union health ministry guidelines said.
Union health ministry also issued set of different SOPs for restaurants and hospitality industry stating that given the current Covid-19 outbreak in India, it is important that restaurants and other hospitality units take suitable measures to restrict any further transmission of the virus while providing restaurant services.
According to the SOPs for restaurants, takeaways to be encouraged, instead of dine-in facility. Food delivery personnel should leave the packet at customer’s door. Direct handover of the food packet to the customer will not be allowed.
“The staff for home deliveries shall be screened thermally by the restaurant authorities prior to allowing home deliveries. Seating arrangement to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained. In restaurants, not more than 50% of seating capacity to be permitted. Disposable menus are advised to be used. Instead of cloth napkins, use of good quality disposable paper napkins to be encouraged,” the SOPs read. Only asymptomatic staff and customers shall be allowed in the restaurants. Entrance to have mandatory sanitizer dispensers and thermal screening provisions.
The government said that all hotels and other hospitality units must take suitable measures to restrict any further transmission of Covid-19 while providing accommodation and other tourist services. The guidelines state that room service or takeaways will be encouraged, instead of dine-in.
The union health ministry however recently issued guidelines for workplaces, it issued fresh SOPs for offices on Thursday. The ministry said that offices and other workplaces are relatively close settings, with shared spaces like work stations, corridors, elevators and stairs, parking places, cafeteria, meeting rooms and conference halls etc. and Covid-19 infection can spread relatively fast among officials, staffs and visitors. There is a need to prevent spread of infection and to respond in a timely and effective manner in case suspect case of Covid-19 is detected in these settings, so as to limit the spread of infection, it said.
According to the SOPs, staggering of office hours, lunch hours/coffee breaks to be done, as far as feasible. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the office premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times. Seating arrangement need to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained, the guidelines said.
Number of people in the elevators shall be restricted, duly maintaining social distancing norms for all settings. Also, for air-conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of Central Public Works Department (CPWD) shall be followed which inter alia emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30oC, relative humidity should be in the range of 40- 70%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate, the SOPs said adding that proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises – duly following social distancing norms be ensured.