Amid COVID, Assam to ensure safe Puja, Diwali celebration

State health department issues fresh SOPs for low-key festivities

GUWAHATI, Sept 20: Ahead of the festive season, the Assam government has issued a fresh set of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to allow people to celebrate festivals such as Durga Puja and Diwali but at the same time keep the celebrations low key as a precaution in view of the pandemic.

According to the general guidelines issued by the state health department, all puja organising committees in the state have to get permission from the district administration for organising any event resulting in public gathering.

“The event spot should be kept open from all sides and have adequate space for arrangement of physical distancing in accordance with the COVID-19 protocols,” the guidelines state.

Entry and exit gates of the puja pandals must be separate.

“Entry with at least one dose of vaccination signs” would have to be placed at all entry points of the pandals. Use of mask and hand sanitisers are mandatory for all visitors,” it stated.

“The inauguration of the puja pandal and immersion of idols should be a low-key affair with minimum people and adhering to all COVID norms. Organisers may explore the possibility of inaugurating the pandals in virtual mode,” it stated.

Size of the puja idols shall be limited in such a way that carrying them shall require minimal number of people in accordance with the norms laid out by the Assam State Disaster Management Authority.

“Immersion must be planned by the district administration in a staggered manner by allotment of specific time to each puja committee,” it added.

Besides the committee members, the guidelines state that all volunteers, organisers, worshipers, and visitors should be vaccinated with at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. However, citizens below the age of 18 years are exempted from the protocol.

The SOP also clearly states that all volunteers, priests and puja organisers must get mandatorily tested for COVID-19 before puja starts (on the day of Panchami and after immersion of the idols even though they may be vaccinated.

The government has also instructed the puja organisers to sanitise the puja mandap and the pandal before and after the puja.

In view of the pandemic, cultural programmes, fairs or stalls on the premises of the pandals have been barred.

All deputy commissioners have been directed to monitor that the SOPs are followed in their respective districts.

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