An artist gives final touches to an idol of Lord Vishwakarma for the upcoming Vishwakarma Puja in Guwahati on Tuesday. (ANI PHOTO.)
An artist gives final touches to an idol of Lord Vishwakarma for the upcoming Vishwakarma Puja in Guwahati on Tuesday. (ANI PHOTO.)

Assam announces SOPs for Durga Puja; organizers, priests must be vaccinated

Puja ‘mandaps’ would have to be in open spaces with adequate space for social distancing, must have separate entry and exit points for public, anyone found having symptoms of Covid-19 would have to be immediately reported to health authorities for proper follow up.
PUBLISHED ON SEP 15, 2021 08:27 PM IST

Assam on Wednesday announced a fresh set of guidelines for the upcoming festival season allowing organizing of ‘pujas’ by following safety and social distancing protocols.

“The fresh set of guidelines is for the coming Durga Puja, Lakshmi Puja, Kali Puja and Diwali festivals. The steps are being taken to ensure that the people are able to observe the festivals while controlling the Covid-19 spread at the same time,” said health minister Keshab Mahanta in Guwahati while announcing the rules.

Puja committees would have to take permission from offices of deputy commissioners of all districts—all committee members and those involved in organising the festivals will have to be vaccinated with at least one dose of Covid-19 vaccine before seeking permission to organize events.

“We would prefer committee members to be fully vaccinated. People who have taken one dose of either Covishield or Covaxin, but have not taken the second dose within the stipulated time break won’t be considered as vaccinated,” Mahanta said.

Puja ‘mandaps’ would have to be in open spaces with adequate space for social distancing, must have separate entry and exit points for public, anyone found having symptoms of Covid-19 would have to be immediately reported to health authorities for proper follow up.

Committees would have to keep sanitizers and face masks at entry points and organizers, priests and others involved would have to get tested for Covid-19 a day ahead of Durga Puja and again after the festival is over. Committee members will have to ensure social distancing is followed at all places.

“We appeal to all committees to ensure that the idols of the gods and goddesses are not very large so that many people aren’t needed for their immersion. Cultural programs at puja venues won’t be allowed and only a select few shops and outlets will be allowed to operate near the venues,” said Mahanta.

He added that in order to control the spread of Covid-19 we are focused on the testing, tracing and treating method as well as mass vaccinations of all eligible people. A mass vaccination drive is being organised in Guwahati on September 17 to bring all eligible people under vaccine cover.

“Durga Puja will start from October 12. Our goal is to administer at least one dose of vaccine to all eligible persons in the state by October 10. We are making all efforts to ensure that in all districts,” said Mahanta.

Assam has been recording around 500 fresh Covid-19 cases and 5-10 deaths daily for the past two weeks. The test positivity rate has remained below 1% for most days during this duration. There are around 4,000 active cases in the state at present.

Till Wednesday evening, Assam had administered over 20.7 million Covid-19 vaccine doses (16.8 million first doses and 3.9 million second doses).

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