The Ministry of Health Thursday issued detailed standard operating procedures (SOPs) for the reopening of offices, religious places, malls, restaurants and hotels in preparation for the expected nationwide resumption of commercial activities from June 8.
Can all offices, religious places, malls, restaurants and hotels open on June 8?
The SOPs are advisory in nature; it is for state governments and individual establishments to enforce them.
None of these with the exception of offices related to medical or essential services, can open in containment zones. Outside of containment zones commercial establishments can open. However, persons above the age of 65, those with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years have been advised to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. The management of these establishments are required to “advise accordingly”.
What are the norms that you need to follow while visiting these places?
While visiting offices, religious places, malls, restaurants and hotels, people are required to observe social distancing, and as far as possible, maintain a distance of at least six feet. Masks or face covers have to be worn at all times, including inside restaurants.
“Practice frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be made wherever feasible. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing of used tissues properly,” the SOPs states.
No person with Covid-19 symptoms is to be allowed in visit these places.
Can restaurants operate at capacity?
No, they cannot. In food courts and restaurants, not more than 50 per cent of seating capacity is going to be permitted. Instead of dine-ins, the SOPs call for takeaways to be encouraged.
“Food delivery personnel should leave the packet at the customer’s door. DO NOT handover the food packet directly to the customer. The staff for home deliveries shall be screened thermally by the restaurant authorities prior to allowing home deliveries.” The entrance needs to have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) and thermal screening provisions.
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Can air conditioners operate in these areas?
Yes, they can, but at very specific levels. “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 24-30oC, 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,” reads the SOPs. Lifts will have restrictions on the number of people who can use it at any given point.
What happens if a positive case is detected in any of these places?
For offices, the duration of closure will have to be a function of the number of cases detected in that setting. “If there are one or two cases reported, the disinfection procedure will be limited to places/areas visited by the patient in the past 48 hrs. There is no need to close the entire office building/halt work in other areas of the office and work can be resumed after disinfection as per laid down protocol. However, if there is a larger outbreak, the building/block will have to be closed for 48 hours after thorough disinfection. All the staff will work from home, till the building/block is adequately disinfected and is declared fit for re-occupation.”
For the other places, the first step is isolation and masking of the sick person. Once s/he has been handed over to the health authorities, the designated public health authority will assess the situation and decide on contact tracing, etc. The premises will have to be disinfected.
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