COVID-19: SOPs aim to instill proper behaviour for resuming activities

The aim of SOPs for religious places, shopping malls, restaurants, hotel and offices is to instill appropriate behaviour among people to contain COVID-19 transmission chain

SOPs, Health Ministry, COVID-19, coronavirus, Lockdown, Unlock-1
Residents maintain social distance as they stand outside a grocery store in Ahmedabad to shop for essential items during the lockdown. Photo: PTI

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases and death toll in India continued to mount on Friday (June 5), even as the Health Ministry released SOPs for reopening offices, hotels, shopping malls, restaurants and religious places.

A record jump of 9,851 cases and 273 fatalities in 24 hours took the country’s COVID-19 tally on Friday to 2,26,770 and death toll to 6,348.

The number of active COVID-19 cases stood at 1,10,960 while 1,09,462 patients have recovered till Friday 8 AM with 5,355 having been cured in the last 24 hours, the health ministry said, adding the recovery rate was 48.27 per cent.

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SOPs issued for reopening public places

The aim of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for religious places, shopping malls, restaurants, hotel and offices is to instill appropriate behaviour among people to contain COVID-19 transmission chain while allowing resumption of social and economic activities, the Union health ministry said.

Accelerating efforts to restart long-stalled business activities to contain the economic cost of the pandemic, the Health Ministry issued guidelines on Thursday (June 4) for restaurants, hotels, places of worship and offices in COVID-19 containment zones to remain shut and only those outside these areas given the permit to be opened.

Some of them have already re-opened in parts of the country and a few others are scheduled to re-start in the next phase of unlocking from next Monday.

Related news: Unlock 1: Centre issues SOP for mall, temple visitors from June 8

“The new guidelines aim to instil COVID-19 appropriate behaviour to contain the chain of transmission while allowing social and economic activity to resume,” the health ministry said.
According to the SOPs, cinema halls, gaming arcades and children play areas in malls outside containment zones would be barred from opening.

The SOPs included measures like allowing only asymptomatic staff, guests, customers and devotees on the premises, proper crowd management and maintaining effective and frequent sanitation, with a particular focus on lavatories, drinking and handwashing stations/areas.

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, the SOPs stated.

“No physical offerings like prasad/distribution or sprinkling of holy water, etc should be allowed inside the religious place,” the ministry said, underlining that community kitchens, langars, Ann-Daan etc at religious places should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food.

Sanitisation drive in health ministry premises

Meanwhile, following five employees of the Union health ministry, including a director, an under-secretary testing positive for COVID-19 in the last seven days, the authorities are carrying out a “major and comprehensive disinfection and sanitisation” of office premises from June 6-7.

Besides two officers and a doctor, two employees who have contracted the disease are from the Centre for Health Informatics under the Health Ministry. They frequented the Nirman Bhawan building, sources said.

“Those who had come in contact with these COVID-19 infected officials have been advised to quarantine themselves. Further contract tracing is on,” a source said, adding a few more staff had tested positive earlier.

Related news: India records biggest surge of 9,851 COVID cases in 24 hours

In view of these developments, the Union Health Ministry on June 4 issued a fresh office memorandum stating, “It has been decided to initiate major and comprehensive disinfection and sanitization of office premises (Nirman Bhawan) on June 6-7.”

“Accordingly, the entire premises of the Ministry of Health and DGHS, Nirman Bhawan will remain closed from June 6 to 7 except for emergency COVID-19 team,” the memorandum read.

As part of the “deep sanitisation” exercise, rooms, washrooms, door knobs, switches, handles, tables, workstations, chairs, armrest of chairs, sofas, almirahs, and office equipment such as computers and printers, will be sanitised.

Ministry issues office memorandum

The ministry has issued another office memorandum on June 3 advising all staff to follow precautionary measures strictly in order to contain the spread of the disease.

“The number of COVID-19 positive cases are going up steadily. Many officers of the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare have tested COVID-19 positive. It has been noted that at times social distancing is not being maintained in office premises,” the June 3 memo read.

Listing a series of precautionary measures to be followed “strictly”, the ministry said wearing of masks is mandatory for all employees, only asymptomatic persons will be allowed to attend office and the staff should maintain social distancing mandatorily.

Related news: Follow COVID precautions, work from home if need be: Health min tells staff

Meetings and conferences should not be done physically and may be organized through video conferencing only, and work from home should be facilitated in case of an emergent situation, it said.

“All JSs/EAs concerned shall ensure that their officers/staff attend office at staggered working hours as per DoPT office memorandum,” the memo stated.

The ministry advised discouraging entry of visitors in the office complex and sanction leave whenever any request for self-quarantine is received.

It also advised against using each other phones, desk and other work tool, avoiding loitering and crowding in the corridors and maintaining respiratory etiquettes.

“All employees should try and use stairs as far as possible except those who may have problems using the staircase. The movement of physical receipt/ file/ should be discouraged so as to avoid the infection through frequent touching of papers,” the memorandum read.

(With inputs from agencies)

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