The Govt of Meghalaya issued SOP to contain spread of COVID-19 in religious places

Shillong, June 06: The Government of Meghalaya issued standard operation procedure on preventive measures to contain spread of COVID-19 in religious places or places of worship.

Background Religious places or  places of worship get frequented by large number of people for spiritual solace. To prevent spread of COVID-19 infection, it is important that required social distancing and other preventive measures are followed in such premises.

Scope This document outlines various generic precautionary measures to be adopted in addition to specific measures to be taken at particular places to prevent spread of COVID-19. 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.

Generic preventive measures Person above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant woman and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home, organisations managing the religious institutions to advise accordingly.

The generic preventive measures include simple public health measures that are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed by all workers and visitors in these places at all times.

These include, Individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 5 feet in public places as far as feasible. Use of face covers and masks to be mandatory. 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. iv. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing or /sneezing with a tissue or handkerchief or flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly.

Self-monitoring of health by all and reporting any illness at the earliest to state and district helpline. Spitting should be strictly prohibited. vii. Installation and use of Aarogya Setu App shall be advised to all.

All religious places shall also ensure: Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene sanitizer dispenser and thermal screening provisions. Respective Religious Organizations should place their respective requisition for thermal scanners with the District Medical and Health Officer, Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Meghalaya who will make the thermal scanners available on payment basis.

Only asymptomatic persons shall be allowed in the premises. All persons to be allowed entry only if using face cover or masks, Posters or standees on preventive measures about COVID-19 to be displayed prominently in both English and Local Language.

The Health and Family Welfare Department, Government of Meghalaya will make available such IEC material. Audio and Video clips to spread awareness on preventive measures for COVID-19 should be regularly played, staggering of visitors to be done, if possible.

Further, to ensure that the staggering is effective churches can have multiple services on any other day apart from Sunday. The duration of the service should be between 30-45 minutes.

Shoes or footwear to be preferably taken off inside own vehicle, if needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual and  family by the persons themselves.

For churches, provision should be made for disinfecting the shoes at the entrance. vii. Proper crowd management in the parking lots and outside the premises – duly following social distancing norms shall be organized. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the premises shall follow social distancing norms at all times.

Specific markings may be made with sufficient distance to manage the queue and ensure social distancing in the premises. Preferably separate entry and exits for visitors shall be organized.

Maintain physical distancing of a minimum of 5 feet at all times when queuing up for entry. People should wash their hand and feet with soap and water before entering the premises. Seating arrangement to be made in such a way that adequate social distancing is maintained.

As far as Churches are concerned, maximum number of persons allowed during any church service should not exceed one-third the seating capacity of the church. Further, in order to maintain the minimum distance as prescribed above, only one or two people in each pew will be allowed to be seated at maximum distance from each other.

Further, one row in between two pews should be left empty. In Mosques, individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 5 feet for prayers as far as feasible. In Temples, Gurudwaras and other religious places of worship, individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 5 feet for prayers as far as feasible.

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%, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate.

Touching of statues/idols / holy books etc. not to be allowed. For Churches, persons may bring their hymn books and Holy Bibles and sharing is not permitted. xvi. Large gatherings/congregation continue to remain prohibited. For churches and mosques this is clarified in the preceding paras.

In view of potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed. In churches, even while singing hymns masks should be worn at all times.

Avoid physical contact while greeting each other. xix. Common prayer mats should be avoided and devotees should bring their own prayer mat or piece of cloth which they may take back with them.

No physical offerings like Prasad or distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc. to be allowed inside the religious place. During Holy Communion in Churches, the Priest ,Pastor or Person who administer the Holy Communion should wear gloves and ensure that there is no contact with the person receiving the elements of the Holy Communion.

Since in churches, one row in between pews has been left empty, hence collection of tithes and offerings is permitted. It is also advised that christening of babies may be avoided till such time the situation improves.

Community kitchens or langars, “Ann-daan”, etc. at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food. Effective sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on lavatories, hand and foot-washing stations/areas.

Frequent cleaning and disinfection to be maintained by the management of the religious place, the floors should particularly be cleaned multiple times in the premises. Proper disposal of face covers masks or gloves left over by visitors and or employees should be ensured.

As far as practicable, Live streaming of services, prayers and religious rituals can be adopted by all religious organisations to cater to elder people, children and persons with comorbidities. In case of a suspect or confirmed case in the premises, a. Place the ill person in a room or area where they are isolated from others. b. Provide a mask face cover till such time he or she is examined by a doctor.

Immediately inform the nearest medical facility hospital or clinic or call the state or district helpline. A risk assessment will be undertaken by the designated public health authority district RRT/treating physician and accordingly further action be initiated regarding management of case, his or her contacts and need for disinfection. Disinfection of the premises to be taken up if the person is found positive.

For any clarification the following officers are hereby notified as Nodal Officers. Any clarifications may be sought during office hours”,  Shri Ambrose Ch. Marak, Director School Education and Literacy, Govt of Meghalaya, (Mobile No 9436730713), 2. Shri Bhupesh Hajong, Joint Secretary, Revenue and Disaster Management Department, Govt of Meghalaya (Mobile No 9436113592), Smti Anita Kharpor, MCS, Joint Secretary, Personnel and A.R. Department, Govt of Meghalaya (Mobile No 9863067505), Smt Aitinolin L Mawong, Joint Secretary, Commerce & Industries Department, Govt of Meghalaya (9436107594) (Shri. M.S. Rao, IAS) Chief Secretary Government of Meghalaya

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