The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued new Covid-19 guidelines for the functioning of public spaces such as cinema halls, theatres and swimming pools.
Swimming pools, which were earlier opened for exclusive use by athletes, can now be used by all. A revised standard operating procedure (SOP) will be issued by Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in consultation with MHA in this regard.
According to the new guidelines, which will be effective from February 1, there shall also be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods including those for cross land-border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements, the MHA said. All activities have been permitted outside containment zones, except a few which will be subject to strict adherence of SOPs.
Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings were already permitted to function on 50 per cent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 people in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground or space in view, in open spaces.
"Now such gatherings (exceeding 200 people) will be allowed subject to SOP of the state and UT concerned. Cinema halls and theatres have already been permitted up to 50 per cent of seating capacity. Now they will be permitted to operate at higher seating capacity, for which a revised SOP will be issued by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in consultation with MHA," the guidelines said.
Business to Business (B2B) exhibition halls were already permitted to function. Now all types of exhibition halls will be permitted, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Department of Commerce in consultation with MHA.
The main focus of the guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of Covid-19 which is visible in the steady decline in number of active and new cases in the country over the last four months.
"It is, therefore, emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines and SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW)," the guidelines said.
Containment zones, if required, shall be carefully demarcated by the district authorities at the micro level, taking into consideration guidelines prescribed by the MoHFW in this regard.
Within the demarcated containment zones, containment measures, as prescribed by MoHFW shall be scrupulously followed.
Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed and state and union territory governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard.
The MHA said state and union territory governments shall take all necessary measures to promote Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and ensure wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.
The National Directives for Covid-19 Management shall continue to be followed throughout the country, so as to enforce Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.
For further opening up of international air travel of passengers, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) may take a decision in consultation with MHA based on the assessment of the situation.
The SOPs, as updated from time to time, have been prescribed for various activities. These include: movement by passenger trains; air travel; metro trains; schools; higher educational institutions; hotels and restaurants; shopping malls, multiplexes and entertainment parks; yoga centres and gymnasiums, etc.
These SOPs shall be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned, who shall be responsible for their strict observance, the guidelines said.
(With PTI inputs)