Unlock 2.0: India prepares to re-open restaurants, shopping malls as Health Ministry issues new relaxation guidelines

Unlock 2.0: India prepares to re-open restaurants, shopping malls as Health Ministry issues new relaxation guidelines

The Union Health Ministry on Saturday issued new relaxations and guidelines as India steps into the second phase of unlocking from June 8. It has issued a new standard operating procedure (SOP) as the country prepares to re-open private offices, restaurants, religious places and even shopping malls in non-containment zones. The new SOP includes few guidelines from the previous ones, like the usage of the Arogya Setu App, social distancing norms and maintaining hygiene and sanitization. This new SOP has been issued with an ulterior goal of keeping a check on the widespread of the pandemic.

Although, the government still continues to recommend citizens above the age of 65, pregnant women, people with co-morbidities and children below the age of 10 to continue to stay self-quarantined. The SOP states that only the people who are asymptomatic will be allowed to enter the places which are resuming functions, like temples, malls and hotels. Although entering places of worship is allowed, touching the idols or holy books is not. People can choose to record devotional songs/prayers and play it even inside the premises of temples, but choir or group singing will not be allowed. Further, no physical offering such as the distribution of Prasad/holy water will be permitted, stated the SOP.

Temperature screening, maintaining a distance of 6 feet, mandatory face masks, disinfecting hands with sanitizers and soaps in order to ensure hygiene still continues to be an important part of the SOP. Adding on, if anyone is found positive, immediate disinfection of the premises needs to be conducted. There should be minimal contact between the staff and guests in hotels and malls.

SOP further states that restaurants should ideally promote takeaways rather than dine-in and disposable menus. Disposable paper napkins are to be used instead of cloth napkins. Food delivery personnel have to leave the package at the customer's door and home delivery staff needs to be screened regularly. Buffet services have to compulsorily follow the social distancing norms. Tables need to be sanitized after every use. Food courts are not permitted to have more than 50% seating arrangements.

"For air- conditioning/ventilation, the guidelines of CPWD shall be followed which inter alia emphasises that the temperature setting of all air conditioning devices should be in the range of 24-30 degree Celcius, relative humidity should be in the range of 40- 70 per cent, intake of fresh air should be as much as possible and cross ventilation should be adequate," said the SOP.

Although, gaming arcades and parlours along with open and enclosed play areas for children and cinema halls remain to be dysfunctional.
The SOP has also stated that, even though shopping malls and restaurants can resume work in non-containment zones, it is advisable that manageable work continue to operate from home in order to control the spread of COVID-19. Proper crowd management and maintenance of 6 feet distance should be given utmost priority.

Hotels and guest houses need to get acquainted with non-contact procedures such as QR code scanning, online form filling and digital payment and e-wallet options during check-in and check-out. Submission of travel and medical history, self-declaration forms filled by the guest should be made compulsory before checking-in.

Standees, posters and other media promoting the required precautions and guidelines about COVID-19 have to be displayed wide and open. Malls should be prepared with enough man-power to manage the social distancing norms. Pregnant, aged and employees with previous medical conditions need to take extra preventive measures. They should avoid working from the front-line i.e., dealing directly with the mass. Parking lots are required to have crowd managing personnel. People require disinfecting parts of their private cars properly before taking it out to public places. Queues need to have specific markings for people to maintain social distancing. Seating arrangements in restaurants need to be changed in order to maintain distance from one another. Elevators need to have a restricted number of people at a time in order to keep a distance between two people. Escalators should be used with a single person at alternative steps.

The SOP also stated that the temperature of all air-conditioning devices should be set at 24-30 degrees only, relative humidity needs to range from 40-70% and cross ventilation should be adequately taken care of. Door knobs, elevator buttons, washroom apparatus need to be regularly disinfected mandatorily in every common area such as malls, restaurants, etc. Face masks, gloves, etc. need to have proper disposals in public places.

The kitchen staff of restaurants, food courts and hotels needs to maintain social distancing too. Risk assessments will be conducted by a designated public health authority (treating physician).

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