Mumbai | Jagran News Desk: The Maharashtra government on Saturday said that all religious places and places of worship across the state will reopen for devotees from Monday (November 16). It, however, noted that all safety measures and COVID-19 protocols will have to be followed.

"All religious places in the state to re-open for devotees from Monday, 16th November. Wearing the mask will be compulsory, all COVID norms will have to be followed," the Maharashtra government said in a statement, as reported by news agency ANI.

All religious places across the country were closed from March 25 after Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced nationwide coronavirus-induced lockdown. Though they were allowed to reopen by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) from June, the Maharashtra government was reluctant in reopening them due to a large number of coronavirus cases across the state.

However, Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray last week had said that his government might all places of worship to reopen for devotees after the festival of Diwali.

"People have been asking questions when will temples reopen? Yes, places of worship shall be opened, but let Diwali get over. We shall prepare comprehensive SOPs for the purpose," Thackeray had said in an address.

The Maharashtra Chief Minister, however, had cautioned about the second wave of COVID-19 infection and urged people to take all the necessary precautions to "avoid a second lockdown", noting that "Diwali will be crucial".

"Crowds seen in the market places is a sign of life returning to normalcy but don't be complacent. We have no option but to wear masks, ensure physical distancing and continue washing hands till a vaccine is found," he had said.

Here are the complete list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) released by the Centre for reopening of temples:

* In view of the potential threat of the spread of the infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music or songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed.

* Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own mat or piece of cloth which they may take back with them.

* No physical offerings like prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc should be allowed inside the religious place.

* Community kitchens, langars, 'Ann-Daan' etc at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food.

* All religious places to ensure hand hygiene (sanitiser dispenser) and make thermal screening provisions at the entrance mandatorily. Only asymptomatic persons to be allowed in the premises and allowing those using face cover or masks.

* Shoes / footwear to be preferably taken off inside own vehicle. If needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual / family by the persons themselves.

* Audio and video clips to spread awareness on preventive measures for COVID-19 should be regularly played while posters on preventive measures should to be displayed prominently.

* Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc, outside and within the premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times.

* The SOPs underlined maintaining physical distancing of a minimum of six feet at all times when queuing up for entry and washing hand and feet with soap and water before entering the premises.

* Touching of statues, idols and holy books should not be allowed and large gatherings remain prohibited.

* 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 24-30 C, 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.

* Spitting should be strictly prohibited and installation and use of Aarogya Setu App should be advised to all.

* The management of the religious places must ensure frequent cleaning and disinfection of the floors and other surfaces.

* In case of a suspect or confirmed case in the premises, the ill person should be placed in a room or area and isolated from others and the nearest medical facility (hospital/clinic) should be informed.

Posted By: Aalok Sensharma