Religious places outside Containment Zones to open

Only asymptomatic guests at hotels
Office building not to be closed for one or two cases

NEW DELHI, June 4:

Religious places inside Containment Zones shall remain closed for public and those outside will be allowed to open, according to the SOPs issued by the Union Health Ministry today to contain the COVID-19 spread at such venues.
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.
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.
Meanwyhile, the Health Ministry has released the Standard Operating Procedure for restaurants and hotels which included measures like allowing only asymptomatic staff and guests inside the premises and proper crowd management.
The Ministry asked employees who are at higher risk — like older staff members or those who are pregnant or have underlying medical conditions — to take extra precautions.
“They should preferably not be exposed to any front-line work requiring direct contact with the public. Proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises – duly following social distancing norms shall be ensured,” it said.
“Preferably separate entry and exits for patrons, staff and goods/supplies shall be organised,” it said.
The Ministry also asked hotels and restaurant owners to encourage contactless mode of ordering and digital payments (using e-wallets).
For hotels and hospitality services, it asked them to ensure a proper record of the guest’s travel history and medical condition, along with ID and self-declaration form.
“Luggage should be disinfected before sending the luggage to rooms. For room service, communication between guests and in-house staff should be through intercom/ mobile phone and room service (if any) should be provided while maintaining adequate social distance,” it said.
“Gaming arcades/children play areas (wherever applicable) shall remain closed,” it said.
In SOPs released for restaurants, the ministry has curtailed the seating capacity to 50 per cent. Disposable menus are advised to be used. Instead of cloth napkins, use of disposable paper napkins should be encouraged.
Restaurants have been asked to encourage takeaways instead of dine-in.
“Food delivery personnel should leave the packet at the customer’s door. Do not handover the food packet directly to the customer,” it said.
The Ministry also said that the staff for home deliveries shall be screened thermally by the restaurant authorities prior to allowing home deliveries.
“Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions and only asymptomatic staff and patrons shall be allowed,” it said.
Staggering of patrons to be done, if possible. Adequate manpower should be deployed by restaurant management for ensuring social-distancing norms, it said.
“Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises. Maintaining physical distancing of a minimum of 6 feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the restaurant as far as feasible.
For air-conditioning and ventilation, the Ministry said 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 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.
Meanwhile, any employee residing in a COVID-19 Containment Zone should be allowed to work from home and not attend office till the time the area is denotified and that period will not be counted as leave, the Union Health Ministry said.
According to SOP issued by the Ministry against the backdrop of the Government’s plans to open up the economy, an entire office building need not be closed if one or two cases of COVID-19 are reported there and work can resume after disinfection as per the laid down protocols.
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 said in its ‘SOPs on preventive measures to contain spread of COVID-19 in offices’.
Offices in Containment Zones will remain closed except for medical and essential services and only those outside will be allowed to open up, the Ministry said.
According to the SOP, any officer or staff residing in Containment Zones should inform the same to the supervisory officer and not attend office till the zone is denotified. They should be permitted to work from home and it will not be counted as leave period.
Hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions should be put in place at the entrances mandatorily and only asymptomatic staff/visitors should be allowed, it said.
All officers and staff will be allowed entry only if they are using face cover/masks and these should be worn at all times on the office premises, it said.
Drivers should maintain social distancing and prescribed ‘dos and don’ts’ related to COVID-19. It should be ensured by the service providers and officers that drivers residing in containment zones are not allowed to drive vehicles, the SOP stated.
The interior of the vehicles should be disinfected using 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite solution/spray and the steering, door handles, keys, etc. Should be properly disinfected.
As per the SOP, routine issue of visitor/temporary passes should be suspended, and visitors with proper permission of the officer they want to meet should be allowed after being properly screened.
Meetings, as far as feasible, should be done through video conferencing and large gatherings prohibited, it said.
“Offices and other workplaces are relatively close settings, with shared spaces like work stations, corridors, elevators, 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,” the ministry said.
Listing the SOP, the ministry highlighted the need for maintaining effective and frequent sanitation within the premises, with a particular focus on lavatories, drinking and hand washing stations.
It underlined that frequently touched surfaces like door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, benches, washroom fixtures on office premises and common areas should be cleaned and regularly disinfected (using 1 pc sodium hypochlorite).
Adequate crowd and queue management, along with social distancing norms, should be ensured in the cafeteria and canteen, and the staff and waiters should wear masks and hand gloves and take other required precautionary measures, it said.
Seating arrangement should ensure a distance of at least 1 metre between patrons as far as feasible, the SOP mentioned.
“If there are large numbers of contacts from a pre-symptomatic/asymptomatic case, there could be a possibility of a cluster emerging in workplace setting. Due to the close environment in workplace settings this could even be a large cluster (>15 cases),” the document said.
In such cases, essential principles of risk assessment, isolation and quarantine of contacts, case referral and management will remain the same.
However, the scale of arrangements will be higher, it underlined.
The ministry, however, stated that despite taking the measures, the occurrence of cases among employees working in the office cannot be ruled out.
When one or few person(s) who share a room/close office space are found to be suffering from symptoms suggestive of COVID-19, the ill person should be isolated from others, it said.
The nearest medical facility or the state or the district helpline should be informed and a risk assessment undertaken by the designated public health authority. Accordingly, further advice shall be made regarding the management of case, his/her contacts and the need for disinfection.
The suspect case, if reporting very mild/mild symptoms on assessment by the health authorities, would be placed under home isolation while if assessed by health authorities as moderate to severe, will be treated as per the health protocols in appropriate health facilities, the SOP stated.
The rapid response team of the district concerned shall be requisitioned and it will undertake the listing of contacts, it added.
The necessary actions for contact-tracing and disinfection of workplace will start once the report of the patient is received as positive, the SOP stated. (PTI)

Corona cases reach 2.17 lakh
The nationwide tally of confirmed COVID-19 cases reached 2.17 lakh today with a record number of over 9,000 new cases getting detected and several States reporting their highest one-day surge.
In its morning update, the Union Health Ministry said the total number of positive cases has reached 2,16,919 with a record spike of 9,304 new cases since Wednesday 8 AM across the country, while the death toll has increased to 6,075 with 260 more fatalities in this period.
A PTI tally of figures announced by different states and union territories, as of 9.50 PM, showed a higher number of confirmed cases across the country at 2,17,389 and the death toll at 6,233. It also showed more than 1.07 lakh COVID-19 patients having recovered so far.
India is now the seventh worst hit nation after the US, Brazil, Russia, the UK, Spain and Italy. In terms of fatalities, India is ranked 12th at present, while it is placed at eighth place in terms of recoveries. However, India figures among the top-five countries in terms of active cases, as also for the number of tests conducted so far.
The Health Ministry also said that the number of active COVID-19 cases now stands at 1,06,737, while the count of recoveries has risen to 1,04,107 with 3,804 patients recovering in the last 24 hours.
“The recovery rate is 47.99 per cent amongst COVID-19 patients,” the ministry said.
According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), a total of 42,42,718 samples were tested for coronavirus infection as of Thursday 9 AM, including 1,39,485 of those tested in the last 24 hours.
“The apex health research body, ICMR, has further ramped up the testing capacity for detecting the novel coronavirus in infected persons. The number of government laboratories has been increased to 498 and that of private laboratories to 212,” the ministry said.
Delhi figures among the badly hit states and union territories by the COVID-19 pandemic, while Maharashtra is the worst hit.
Maharashtra registered its highest single-day spike of 2,933 COVID-19 cases, taking its tally of confirmed cases to 77,793, while its death toll rose to 2,710 after 123 fresh fatalities. The number of discharged patients in the state also rose to 33,681.
Of the 123 deaths, 68 were reported in the Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR).
In West Bengal, the COVID-19 death toll rose to 283 with 10 more fatalities, while the state’s case count rose by 368 to 6,876.
Tamil Nadu also reported its highest single-day spike of 1,384 cases to take its tally to 27,256, while its death toll rose to 220.
In Andhra Pradesh, the state government secretariat appeared turning into a hotspot for the novel coronavirus infection with one more employee there testing positive. The state reported 141 new cases in the last 24 hours, taking its tally to 4,112. The death toll has risen to 71 there.
Kerala, Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Odisha, Assam, Mizoram, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim, among other parts of the country, also reported new cases. (PTI)