West Bengal Health dept puts out advisory: Avoid crowds & processions

The advisory specifically urged people “to avoid gatherings and processions as much as possible this year, keeping in mind the possibility of a Covid third wave and spreading of infection”.

With the pandemic still at large, the state health department on Saturday put out an advisory for Durga Puja, asking people to avoid crowds as much as possible during the festivities.

The advisory specifically urged people “to avoid gatherings and processions as much as possible this year, keeping in mind the possibility of a Covid third wave and spreading of infection”. The health department also suggested that revellers keep the festivities confined to their families instead of moving in large crowds.

The health advisory further said that ‘Sindur Khela’, a popular ritual on Dashami in which women smear vermillion on each other’s faces, should also be avoided this year considering the possibility of a fresh explosion of cases through body contact.

The health department further said that people, and more so children, the elderly or those battling ailments, should avoid crowded public places, especially restaurants, pandals and market places. Those developing fever or cold symptoms during the festival should avoid stepping out and isolate themselves at home, the advisory stated.

The Calcutta High Court had announced earlier that the restrictions on pandal-hopping that were in force last year, will continue this year as well.

Also, on Monday, the state government put out its Puja guidelines, saying, “This year, Puja is being organised and celebrated in the middle of this unprecedented pandemic. This demands proper and adequate health safety measures for the citizens. Puja Committees must ensure the health and safety norms for themselves and for the participants and visitors.”

The order further said, “Spacious Open Pandals with Separate Entry-Exit Pandals shall have to be spacious and should be kept open from all sides. If in case it becomes essential to have closed ceiling, the sides will have to be kept open. Pandals must keep adequate space and arrangements for ensuring physical distancing in terms of the existing Covid-19 pandemic norms. There should be separate Entry and Exit arrangements with separate gates. Mingling and crowding should be avoided at all places. Floor markings and other signages should be made on entry and exit routes and assembly points to ensure compliance of physical distancing norms.”

“Use of masks and sanitizers shall be compulsory for all visitors to the pandals. To meet any exigency, organisers shall make adequate arrangements for distribution of masks in close vicinity of the pandal for visitors who inadvertently come to the pandal premises without wearing masks. The use and availability of hand sanitizers should similarly be made compulsory in the pandal premises and neighbourhood.”

Further, according to the government advisory, “Puja organisers must keep volunteers in adequate numbers for ensuring compliance with the norms of physical distancing among visitors, for enforcing wearing of masks and use of hand sanitizers. Volunteers themselves should wear face masks and face shields for safety. Keeping in view the health safety of participants and organizers, ‘Anjali’, ‘Prasad Bitaran’ or ‘Sindoor Khela’ should be organized by Puja Committees in a planned manner and, to the extent possible, in smaller groups with spaced out timings in a staggered way. Priests should use microphones to read the shlokas so that they reach worshippers standing far away and also to ensure that people do not assemble closely in small spaces. Devotees may be encouraged to offer ‘Anjali’ with flowers brought from homes so that flower collection points in the pandals do not become congestion-points.”

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