Amid a surge in coronavirus cases during the 'Unlock 1' phase, the Union Health Ministry on Friday issued guidelines on "COVID-appropriate behaviour" to be followed at restaurants, hotels, religious places, shopping malls and offices in a pictorial format to emphasise on precautions such as staggering of visitors and allowing only asymptomatic people in such premises.
On June 4, the ministry had issued the standard operating procedures for public and semi-public environments but the ministry released the fresh guidelines repackaged in a colourful pictorial format to sensitise people in a better way.
"As we progress in Unlock 1.0, to contain the spread of COVID-19, we need to follow COVID appropriate behaviour at all times," the document stated.
"The aim of issuing these guidelines is to instil COVID appropriate behaviour to contain the spread of the disease while allowing social and economic activity," a ministry official said.
Religious places, restaurants and malls have resumed operations from June 8 under the first phase of India's graded reopening of various sectors, termed 'Unlock 1'.
The guidelines to be followed in all the establishments include using masks or face covers, staggering of visitors, maintaining hand hygiene, adequate social distancing, respiratory etiquettes and thermal screening of all entrants and staff.
It also includes measures like allowing only asymptomatic staff, guests and customers inside the premises, proper crowd management, prohibiting large gatherings and maintaining effective and frequent sanitation within the premises with particular focus on lavatories, drinking and hand washing stations or areas.
As for inside religious places, physical offerings like 'prasad' distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc. is not allowed, the ministry guidelines said.
Also, touching of statues, idols or holy books will not be allowed, the ministry said, underlining community kitchens, langars, 'ann-daan', etc. at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food.
In view of the potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music or songs should be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the ministry said.
Common prayer mats will not be allowed and devotees should bring their own prayer mat or piece of cloth, the guidelines said.
According to the guidelines released for restaurants, the ministry has curtailed the seating capacity to 50 per cent and has recommended use of disposable menus and disposable paper napkins instead of cloth napkins.
It said delivery and takeaways should be encouraged and the packet to be left at the door.
Staff for takeaway should be screened thermally and precautions should be taken while handling supplies/inventories, it stated. The ministry stressed on encouraging contact-less mode of ordering and digital payments.
As for hotels, room service should be encouraged, instead of dine-in, luggage should be disinfected before sending them to rooms and communication between guests and in-house staff should be through intercom or mobile phone.
Besides, all the establishments including offices, shopping malls and restaurants should be cleaned and regularly disinfected using 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite.
Restricted number of people to be allowed in elevators and use of escalators with one person on alternate steps should be followed.
Hand hygiene (sanitiser dispenser) and thermal screening provisions should be put in place mandatorily at the entrance and everyone should maintain respiratory etiquettes and follow the prescribed do's and dont's.
Cinema halls, gaming arcades and children play areas in shopping malls will remain closed.
Spitting is strictly prohibited, the guidelines said, while advising installation and use of Aarogya Setu App.
For air-conditioning and ventilation, the ministry said the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 degrees Celsius, relative humidity should be in the range of 40-70 per cent and intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.
As per the guidelines specific to offices, an entire office building need not be closed if one or two cases of COVID-19 are reported and the work can be resumed after disinfection.
However, if there is a larger outbreak, the entire building will have to be closed for 48 hours and all the staff will work from home, till the building is adequately disinfected and is declared fit for re-occupation.
The ministry's guidelines advised all those who are at higher risk like elderly employees, pregnant employees and those having underlying medical conditions and comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, etc. to stay at home except for essential and health purposes.
Also, everyone should monitor their health and report illness at the district or state helpline immediately.
The guidelines came on a day when for the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak, India recorded over 10,000 new cases in a day, taking the tally to 2,97,535, while the death toll rose to 8,498 with a record single-day spike of 396 fatalities.
India on Thursday went past the United Kingdom to become the fourth worst-hit nation by the COVID-19 pandemic.