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Saturday, July 31, 2021

Karnataka: Places of worship reopen after 69 days, here are the guidelines to follow

Wearing a mask at all times within the premises of the religious place and maintaining a safe distance of six feet are mandatory. No physical offerings like prasad, distribution or sprinkling of holy water are allowed.

Written by Ralph Alex Arakal | Bengaluru |
Updated: July 5, 2021 12:28:44 pm
Bengaluru: A worker pours water at a temple after authorities allowed temples to reopen during COVID-induced lockdown in Bengaluru, Sunday, July 4, 2021 (PTI Photo)

Reopening places of worship across faith is one of the main highlights of several relaxations announced to the curbs that were in place in Karnataka to mitigate the spread of the Covid-19 since the beginning of the second wave.

“Religious places are allowed to open only for darshan. No sevas (rituals that involve devotees) will be allowed,” Chief Minister B S Yediyurappa announced as he spelt out revised guidelines to be in effect from Monday (July 5). Places of worship in the state have remained closed to pilgrims since the last week of April this year.

Meanwhile, an order issued by N Manjunatha Prasad, member secretary of the executive committee of the Karnataka State Disaster Management Authority, clarified that the standard operating procedure (SOP) issued by the Union government would be in place at all temples, mosques, churches, gurudwaras, and other religious places. “No seva/offering or other activities permitted,” it specified.

How are authorities of religious places asked to ensure social distancing?

While separate entry and exit points for visitors are recommended, people have been directed to wash hands and feet with soap and water before entering the premises. Further, only people wearing a mask will be allowed entry, the SOP mentioned. The authorities of each place of worship have been asked to make specific markings with sufficient distance (to maintain a minimum of 6 feet) at all times and to manage queues by ensuring social distancing. Allowing visitors in a staggered manner has also been recommended. No physical offerings like prasad, distribution or sprinkling of holy water, and related activities are allowed inside the religious place.

Will everyone be allowed to visit places of worship?

Yes, but only if the person has no symptoms of infection at all. The authorities have been asked to keep a close watch on all pilgrims at entry points with the arrangement of hand hygiene (sanitiser dispenser) and thermal screening provisions made mandatory. People aged above 65 and below 10, pregnant women and those with comorbidities have been advised to take extra care.

What steps should pilgrims take to ensure the safety of themselves and others around?

Wearing a mask at all times within the premises of the religious place and maintaining a safe distance of six feet are mandatory. Pilgrims have also been directed to avoid physical contact while greeting each other. At the same time, touching statues, idols, holy books, and other items are not to be allowed. Choir, singing groups should not be allowed as recorded devotional music/songs may be played “as far as feasible,” the order mentions. Further, devotees have been asked to avoid using common prayer mats. They have also been asked to remove shoes/footwear inside their own vehicle.

What should be done if a person is suspected or confirmed of the infection in the premises of religious places?

In case of a suspect or confirmed case in the premises, the management/organisation in charge of the place of worship has been directed to isolate the person who is unwell from others as soon as possible. While it has to be ensured that the patient is covering his or her face till a doctor arrives for examination, informing the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) or calling the state or district helpline is the next immediate step advised. The designated public health authority will then undertake a risk assessment to take further actions accordingly including management of the patient, his/her contacts, and the need for disinfection of the premises.

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