Roundup: People offer prayers as religious places open after 76 days in India

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, June 8, 2020
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by Pankaj Yadav

NEW DELHI, June 8 (Xinhua) -- People thronged into places of worship like temples, mosques, churches, and gurudwaras (for Sikh community) in India on Monday as religious places reopened across many states after 76 days of lockdown due to COVID-19.

The reopening of religious places was permitted by fresh guidelines issued by the federal government on June 4, which stated "Religious places or places of worship for public in containment zones shall remain closed. Only those outside containment zones will be allowed to open up."

As per the standard operating procedures (SOPs), persons above 65 years of age, those with comorbidities, pregnant woman and children below the age of 10 years old have been advised to stay at home.

During early morning hours, people were seen entering religious places wearing masks, maintaining social distancing norms, and following necessary instructions like not touching the idols, holy books, or other articles kept inside the sanctum sanctorum.

Media reports showed people visiting the Eidgah Mosque in Lucknow, the capital city of northern state of Uttar Pradesh, and the Kalkaji Temple and the Bangla Sahib Gurudwara in Delhi.

One of the volunteers posted at the Kalkaji Temple told Xinhua over the phone that the SOPs issued by the central government were being strictly followed inside the temple's premises.

"Those entering the temple are passed through thermal screening. Proper arrangements have been made for soaps and hand-sanitizers at the entrance of the temple. Regular announcements are being made asking people to maintain social distancing inside the temple premises. There are strict measures in place to avoid crowding inside or outside the temple," he added.

The SOPs issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare last week stated that before entering any religious place, people must wash their hands with soap for at least 40-60 seconds even when hands are not visibly dirty.

The SOPs also directed the use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers for at least 20 seconds 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 stated.

According to media reports, some of the religious places have decided to organize prayers in shifts and even start a token system to specify time slots to devotees for visits in a bid to maintain social distancing and avoid crowding.

The fifth phase of lockdown began on June 1 in India, though with several relaxations for reopening of economic activities. The current phase is also dubbed as "Unlock 1.0" as the fresh guidelines allow reopening of several places like shopping malls, religious places, manufacturing activities, offices and other business establishments.

India's federal health ministry on Sunday morning said the death toll had risen to 6,929 and the total cases reached 246,628. Enditem

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