Restaurant and food courts in malls to operate at 50 per cent seating capacity with a mandatory distance of six feet between tables. No common prayer mats, physical offerings like prasad, or sprinkling of holy water, in places of worship. Age and health-based restrictions on stepping out of home. Masks to be mandatory, and the Aarogya Setu app “advised” for all.
These are the key elements of the Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Union Health Ministry Thursday for the reopening of malls, religious places, offices, restaurants and hotels in the Covid Unlockdown from June 8.
The SOPs, however, specify that all such establishments, except those for medical or essential services, shall remain shut in containment zones.
Apart from the mandatory use of masks, thermal screening, social distancing and sanitisation, the SOPs require people above 65 years of age, those with comorbidities, pregnant woman, and children below the age of 10 years, to stay at home. Masks are mandatory at all times, including inside restaurants.
The SOPs are advisory in nature, and it is for the state governments to finetune the details. Officials said that individual business establishments can choose to enforce the advisory with increased stringency. “For example, if restaurant owners want to insist that all patrons get the Aarogya Setu app, they can do so,” an official said.
In hotels, the SOPs mandate that guests will have to submit their medical history apart from identity card, travel history, etc., while washrooms have to be “deep cleaned”.
The SOPs state that establishments need to have separate entry and exit, and aged employees or those with comorbidities should take extra precautions and not be exposed to frontline work.
One of the biggest concerns, officials said, is the use of air-conditioners. “For air-conditioning/ ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed…the temperature setting of all air-conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 degrees, relative humidity in the range of 40-70%, intake of fresh air as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate,” say the SOPs.
Those visiting places of worship need to being their own prayer mat or cloth, which they should take back with them. “No physical offerings like prasad/ distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc., is allowed inside religious places,” the SOPs state.
To ensure social distancing in buildings, the guidelines advise restrictions on the number of people who can use the lift at any given time. “Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (door knobs, elevator buttons, hand rails, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all malls in common areas as well as inside shops, elevators, escalators etc,” they state.
On closure of workplaces due to infections, the SOPs specify that it will depend on the number of cases detected. “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 hours. There is no need to close the entire office building/ halt work in other areas of the office… work can be resumed after disinfection as per laid down protocol,” the SOPs state.
“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,” they state.
The requirements for other commercial establishments have been left to the designated public health authority. But if a case is detected, the premise will have to be disinfected.
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