Shopping malls and places of worship across the country, barring states like Maharashtra and Goa, are ready to throw their doors open to people from Monday after remaining closed for nearly two and a half months due to the lockdown prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic. As per guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA), malls, hotels, restaurants and places of worship can open from June 8 as part of phase I of the “unlockdown”.
Besides coming up with their lists of dos and don’ts for the people, authorities have ensured that premises of religious places, restaurants, malls have been cleaned and provisions for adherence to social distancing and other protocols being made.
While entrance to religious places and malls must have hand sanitiser dispensers and thermal screening provisions, not more than 50 per cent of seating capacity is going to be permitted at food courts and restaurants, the guidelines say. Instead of dine-ins, the SOPs call for takeaways to be encouraged.
Moreover, the Union Culture Ministry has approved opening of 820 Archaeological Survey of India-protected monuments that have places of worship from Monday. The ministry has decided to open only those monuments among the over 3,000 ASI-maintained monuments where religious events take place, such as Nila Mosque at Hauz Khas enclave, the Qutub archaeological area and Lal Gumbad in Delhi.
How states are gearing up to open malls, restaurants and religious places:
While malls and restaurants will resume activity from Monday as per the Centre’s guidelines, hotels and banquet halls will remain shut in Delhi. “We may need hotels and banquet halls to place beds and to attach them with hospitals as cases have been rising in Delhi,” Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said.
Delhi has around 100 big and small shopping malls. While some malls have set up UV sterilisation chambers for people to disinfect their belongings, others have reduced the carrying capacity of elevators by 25 per cent.
Contact-less sanitiser dispensers have been placed in most of the malls. Harsh Vardhan Bansal, the director of Vegas Mall in Dwarka, said those visiting the mall should wear masks and have the Aarogya Setu application installed on their mobile phones.
On the other hand, from floor marking for devotees and sanitisers every few metres to ban on offerings of flowers and food, religious places in Delhi have come up with their own set of guidelines.
Imam Bukhari of the Jama Masjid told The Indian Express, “We have emptied the pond in the premises so no wazu (ablution) is done there to avoid spread of Covid-19. We have asked devotees to do wazu at home. We have removed the carpet as well, and have asked people to bring their own prayer mats. Alternate rows will be empty.”
Surender Nath Mahant of Kalkaji temple said thermal scanners and sanitisers are being installed. “People will be allowed in batches of 15-20 only. Masks will be mandatory. No offerings of food or flowers will be accepted. No prasad will be given,” he said.
👉 Uttar Pradesh
Malls, hotels, restaurants and religious places will open up across Noida and other areas outside containment zones in Uttar Pradesh. Face masks have been made compulsory and persons showing symptoms have been advised not to visit public places.
Additional Chief Secretary (Home) Awanish Kumar Awasthi said religious places, “apart from those in containment zones”, will be allowed to open and gatherings would be restricted.
“At malls where there are food courts, it must be ensured that crowds don’t gather and seating capacity is only used at 50%… At restaurants, tables must be disinfected after each use. And in hotels, staff must collect medical history and travel history of people staying there,” he said.
In Haryana, shopping malls and religious places are set to open across 20 districts in the state except Gurgaon and Faridabad. Restaurants, hotels and other hospitality services will, however, be allowed to operate across the state. The state has not put any cap on the number of people allowed inside these places.
Restaurants in Punjab will continue to remain shut for dine-in customers even though the state government has allowed opening of malls, where you can shop for clothes but without trying them on. People can also visit places of worship but ‘prasad’ or langar won’t be served.
According to the guidelines issued by the Punjab government Saturday, restaurants or food courts in malls will not operate except for take away or home delivery. Guests in hotels will have to be served food in their rooms.
The fresh guidelines also provide for a token-based entry to malls. The system will have a provision for maximum time limit for a mall visitor. “The maximum capacity of persons allowed in each shop in the mall shall be fixed on the basis of maintenance of six-feet distance,” as per the government notification.
As per the guidelines, mall visitors are required to have COVA app on their mobile phones. The management of the mall will ensure that not more than 50 per cent of the maximum capacity shall, at any point of time, enter the mall.
All malls, including Elante mall, DLF Mall, Centra, Fun republic, are set to open in Chandigarh from Monday. Hotel chains, microbreweries, food courts will also open from June 8, but with distancing rules in place and only till the prescribed time. The night curfew will be from 9 pm to 5 am for the movement of non-essential items.
The Maharashtra government is yet to take a decision on opening religious places for devotees. Last week, the Maharashtra government had extended the lockdown period till June 30 and decided to keep religious places closed for some more period.
“A decision is yet to be taken on opening temples, mosques, churches and other religious establishments for
people. There has been no decision so far on allowing people to gather at such places, Maharashtra’s law and judiciary department secretary Rajendra Bhagwat told PTI.
Authorities of some prominent temples in Maharashtra also said they have not received any official communication on allowing shrines to be opened for devotees.
For religious places, the Gujarat government has decided they could open in “non-containment zones, but only for viewing”. The guidelines issued by the government said, “The temple management and organisers will have to ensure the devotees observe the protocols issued during the Covid-19 pandemic to avoid crowding.”
Rupani has directed authorities of places of worship to ensure no rituals, like offering prasad and sprinkling holy water, are performed.
The Kerala government has decided to allow functioning of malls, restaurants and places of worship, including the Sabarimala Lord Ayyappa temple, from June 9, but made it clear that the elderly and children will have to stay away from such places.
However, an archdiocese of Catholic Church in Kerala said churches under it would not offer services till June 30. Although masses and other services would not be carried out, the churches can, however, be opened for the faithful to go and say individual prayers, the Ernakulam-Angamaly archdiocese under the Syro-Malabar Church said in a statement.
Kerala government has said the maximum number of people inside a place of worship will be decided as per its size. “Only 15 people per 100 square metre, maintaining a six feet distance between each other, can be allowed but must restrict to a maximum of 100 people at a time in the premises,” Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has said.
From restricted entry to maintaining social distance are among a slew of protocols listed as shopping malls in Hyderabad are set to reopen from Monday. Gaming centers and cinema halls in these malls will not be allowed to operate.
“We have kept single point entry and exit for our staff and retail staff and everybody needs to have an Aarogya
Setu App and show that they are safe. If somebody does not have the app they will have to sign a self-declaration form,” PTI quoted N Parthasaradhy, Vice-President, GVK One, a shopping mall in the upmarket Banjara Hills, as saying.
He said wearing a mask is compulsory for everybody to enter the mall where hand sanitisers are provided for
customers. “The 20-person lifts will now be restricted to just six to maintain the physical distance among customers. Marking was done in the mall for social distancing,” he added.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines