FAQ: What are the Rules For Places of Worship in Maharashtra?
From staggered entry of visitors to social distancing, here’s a look at Maharashtra’s SOPs for places of worship.
After almost eight months of hiatus, religious places of worship in Maharashtra finally reopened Monday, 16 November. But much has changed since earlier this year as the state continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic and the government is not willing to take a chance.
On 14 November, the Shiv Sena-led state government laid down a series of guidelines that devotees and temple authorities need to follow in order to ensure safety is maintained. Apart from clearly mentioning that only religious places outside of containment zones are allowed to open, here’s a look at a few more SOPs that have been mandated.
How Many Visitors Are Allowed Each Day?
While the guidelines by the state government do not mention a specific number of visitors that are to be allowed each day, the SOPs do suggest a staggered entry of visitors. This could largely differ from one place of worship to another.
The number of people allowed inside the premises in any particular time slot differs from one place of worship to another.
“The number of people allowed inside the premises in any particular time slot may be decided on factors such as the size of the structure, ventilation, etc., by the trust/board along with the local authorities (District Collector/Municipal corporation, etc),” reads the government order.
Mumbai’s Siddhivinayak temple threw its doors open to 1,000 visitors on Monday, 16 November. Only 100 visitors are being allowed every hour on Monday and Tuesday.
“We are allowing 100 people in an hour because there’s less space inside the temple. With 100 people allowed every hour, we have decided to allow a total of 1,000 people to visit today and tomorrow. We will review this tomorrow evening and from Wednesday, we will try to accommodate 1,500 people. The number will increase slowly over time as we make adjustments.”Aadesh Bandekar, Chairman, Siddhivinayak Temple
To avoid crowding, devotees must register on the 'Shri Siddhivinayak temple' application on their mobile phones. They need to fill in their details and book a slot. The QR code generated will be scanned while allowing entry into the temple.
“Today’s full slot from 7 am was booked. But for those who can’t operate mobile phones, we have set up a temporary counter to help them generate QR code. It’s very important to record everyone’s information in this pandemic situation. We need every visitor’s photo and information for questions asked on the app,” Bandekar added.
No devotees will be allowed inside the temple during the ‘Aarti’ ritual that takes place twice a day.
What Are the Preventive Measures for Devotees?
People over the age of 65, those suffering from comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 have been advised to stay home according to the government guidelines. The individuals visiting are expected to cover their faces with masks, maintain a distance of 6 feet and sanitise their hands.
The visitors are supposed to follow respiratory etiquette such as covering one’s mouth and nose while sneezing or coughing and disposing of tissues properly. Those caught spitting in public will be penalised. The visitor should monitor their health and is advised to install and use the Aarogya Setu app.
What Are the Guidelines That Places of Worship Need to Follow?
All religious places have been asked to allow entry to only people who cover their faces with masks and are asymptomatic. Aside from these two key rules, here are a series of guidelines that have been drawn up for religious places of worship:
- Mandatory sanitiser dispenser and thermal screening provision at the entrance
- Posters/standees on preventive measures on COVID-19 should be displayed prominently
- Footwear should be taken off inside one’s own vehicle and people must wash their hands and feet with soap before entering
- Appropriate crowd management in parking lots and outside premises
- Shops, cafeteria and stalls inside the premises also need to follow social distancing norms.
- Separate entry and exit for visitors is preferable with a physical distance of 6 feet at all times
- Temperature settings of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 degree Celsius, with relative humidity in the range of 40-70 percent
- Devotees are not allowed to touch statues, idols or holy books and large gatherings remain prohibited
- As far as feasible, places of worship must play recorded music and avoid hosting choirs or singing groups
- Use of common prayer mats must be avoided
- No physical offerings such as prasad or holy water to be allowed
- Frequent cleaning and disinfection of floors, toilets and other commonly used areas are a must
- Workers of the place of worship need to have a COVID-19 safety protocol and those in the highly exposed groups need to undergo weekly COVID test
Apart from these preventive measures, if someone does test positive of COVID-19 on the premises, the individual must be isolated, examined by a doctor, tested and disinfection of the premises must be carried out.
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