Social distancing in times of Puja! Durga Puja has a different feel this year as Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation that has forced people to alter their usual ways of celebration, of which pandal hopping is an indispensable part. The massive gatherings at pandals across India seen every year will be missing this time as the central and various state governments have come up with special guidelines to follow during puja.
SOP to be practiced during the festival season issued by Ministry of Health and Family Welfare:
• Organisers have to maintain spatial boundaries and make a detailed site plan complying with 6-feet physical distancing, thermal screening, sanitization etc.
• Crowds must be regulated especially on auspicious days that attract maximum people
• Exhibitions, puja pandals, fairs and plays should ensure a cap on number of attendees, stagger timings and regulate entry and exit.
• Spitting is strictly prohibited.
• Pandal organizers must provide PPE kits, masks, sanitizers etc to staff as required.
• Using of Aarogya Setu App is advised.
Delhi government’s guidelines for puja and pandals:
• No rallies, processions, exhibitions or food stalls will be allowed near any pandal until October 31, 2020
• Prior permission has to be taken from the Deputy Commissioner of Police (DCP) or the District Magistrate to conduct any event, which will be granted after full inspection of the venue.
• Closed events can host only upto 50 per cent capacity with an upper limit of 200 people.
• For outdoor events, social distancing norms must be strictly followed.
• Entry without masks will be prohibited.
• There will be separate gates for entry and exit.
• Organisers have to record video of the event to be checked by the authorities to ensure rules are being followed.
Covid-19 guidelines to be followed across West Bengal
• All Durga Puja pandals will be treated as containment zones.
• A maximum of 25 members of a Puja committee can enter a pandal.
• Organisers must ensure pandals are spacious. They must be open from all sides and separate entry and exit points should be made.
• Puja rituals have to be staggered to ensure people attend in smaller groups
• Cultural programmes are banned inside the pandals.
• Priests would use microphones to recite prayers so that people could hear them from a safe distance.
• Organisers have been asked to use electronic and social media to reach maximum followers in a virtual manner.
• Inauguration ceremonies have to be minimalist affairs. Pre-allocated ghat timings have to be followed for idol immersion.