No choir singing, idol ringing: Maharashtra broadcasts POE as places of worship reopen
All religious sites in Maharashtra will be allowed to open from November 16, according to an order from the state government on Saturday. These places of worship will open seven months after their closure due to the blockade imposed to control the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19).
However, Prime Minister Uddhav Thackeray urged people to continue to adhere to the Covid-19 protocol. “We cannot forget that the coronavirus demon is still among us. Although this demon is slowly falling silent now, we cannot be complacent. Citizens must follow discipline, ”he said.
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The reopening comes amid criticism for keeping religious sites closed even as the unblocking began in June. However, the decision was defended by Thackeray, saying that it was difficult to follow physical distancing in places of worship.
These are the standard operating procedures (SOPs) required by the state government:
– Religious sites located outside the Covid-19 containment zones can only remain open. The schedules will be decided by the local authorities.
– Only asymptomatic people will be allowed access to places of worship. Devotees will be allowed to enter places of worship in a staggered manner.
– The use of a mask is mandatory and visitors must strictly follow the rules of social distancing.
– Shoes must be kept outside the enclosure.
– Management should conduct a thermal scan and provide visitors with hand washing facilities or disinfectant.
– Touching statues, holy books, idols is prohibited according to the guidelines. Large gatherings are still prohibited.
– As assessed by state authorities, the local administration may add further instructions to these guidelines that will help prevent the spread of Covid-19.
– Only recorded devotional music will be played. Choirs or singing groups are not allowed.
– Common prayer mats should be requested to be avoided. Devotees are asked to bring their own prayer mats or pieces of cloth, which can then be taken with them.
– The physical offering of ‘prasad’, distribution or sprinkling of holy water is not allowed.
– The floors of places of worship should be cleaned several times a day, and communal kitchens and langars should follow physical distancing.
– Effective disinfection of facilities should be performed with a particular focus on restrooms and hand and foot washing stations.
– Workers in places of worship will need to undergo Covid-19 testing prior to joining and weekly for highly exposed groups.