Assam issues Durga Puja guidelines
The Assam government has issued strict guidelines for Durga Puja festivities in a bid to curb the spread of Covid-19 amid indications that the disease is showing a declining trend in the state.
State health minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said on Tuesday, “There is no bar on organising pujas but certain dos and don’ts have to be adhered to — the SOP (standard operating procedures).”
Fearing a spike during and after the four-day festivities, the government has come up with strict dos and don’ts. The SOP for Covid-appropriate behaviour covers organisers, businesses and revellers. The guidelines include:
⚫ Organisers have to seek permission from the respective deputy commissioners
⚫ Mandatory testing for puja committee members, priests and staff on Panchami and a day after immersion
⚫ Pandals should open on all four sides with separate exit and entry points
⚫ Not more than 50 people can assemble inside a pandal at a time
⚫ Use of sanitisers and masks must before entering pandals
⚫ No mass immersion and gathering; immersion to be scattered over 2-3 days
⚫ Puja mandaps to shut at 10pm
⚫ Pillion riding for men will be restricted but not for women and kids
⚫ No cultural functions and competitions but aarti will be allowed
⚫ Restaurants and eateries can do business only till 9pm
Sarma said during a media interaction that the dip in the positivity rate to 1.41 per cent on Monday and the 85 per cent recovery rate was “good news” in the fight against Covid-19. The fall in the positivity rate has been sharp for the past week from 5 per cent on October 6. The positivity rate was 8.33 per cent on September 13, a month back.
On Monday, 1,521 positive cases were detected out of the 1 lakh-plus tests carried out during the day.
Altogether 195,304 people have tested positive for Covid-19 since March 31 with 826 fatalities.
Sarma said if appropriate behaviour is maintained for a few more days then he can “confirm that flattening of the curve has begun in Assam”.
Assam has so far completed over 40 lakh tests, a rate of 1.14 lakh tests per million.
Sarma said Assam has tested 10 per cent of its population of about 3.2 crore claiming it as “a big achievement for a state like ours”. In Guwahati, 6 lakh out of 10 lakh people have been tested, he said.
The minister also said the Centre has asked the state government to be ready for a likely Covid-19 vaccination drive between January and July next year. “Frontline staff and those above 60 years will get priority during the vaccination drive as and when it happens,” Sarma said.