In MHA’s new guidelines, swimming pools open for all, more people in theatres
- Issuing new guidelines for containment and surveillance, which will come into effect from February 1, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) also asked the civil aviation ministry to further open up international air travel in consultation with it.
The Centre on Wednesday issued new Covid-19 guidelines allowing swimming pools to be opened for all and cinema halls to have greater seating capacity than 50 per cent being allowed till now, for which separate standard operating procedure (SOPs) will be issued by the sports and information ministries respectively. Only sportspersons had access to swimming pools till now.
Issuing new guidelines for containment and surveillance, which will come into effect from February 1, the ministry of home affairs (MHA) also asked the civil aviation ministry to further open up international air travel in consultation with it. Air travel was being allowed as of now under the Air Bubble agreements with various countries and the Vande Bharat scheme.
The government also removed the capping on the number of people who could be part of a social, cultural, religious, and political or sports gathering, which until now were limited to a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 people in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground/ space in view. The states and union territories have been given freedom to prepare their own SOPs in this regard.
Similarly, the government said that now all kind of exhibitions can be held anywhere for which the department of commerce will issue new procedures. Earlier, only B2B exhibitions were given permission by the government.
“The main focus of the guidelines (to remain in force till February 28) is to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of Covid-19 which is visible in the steady decline in the 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/SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW),” the MHA said.
The previous guidelines, issued in December and currently in force, had asked all the authorities to be cautious in view of a global surge in the number of infections and emergence of a new variant in the UK.
In a letter to all the states and UTs, Home Secretary Ajay Kumar Bhalla said “As you are aware, the number of active cases in the country has been declining steadily over the past four months. However, there is a need for maintaining caution and strict surveillance so as to fully overcome the pandemic”.
He further said, “All activities have already been permitted except for a few which have been permitted with certain restrictions. In view of the improved situation in the country and requests from various stakeholders, those restrictions in the new guidelines are being removed subject to revised SOPs”.
Activities like - movement by trains, metro trains, schools, higher educational institutions, hotels and restaurants, shopping malls, multiplexes and entertainment parks, yoga centres and gymnasiums, etc were already allowed by the Centre last year. The states were also given freedom to make rules on any night curfew or other restrictions.
Swimming pools had been kept closed for the public due to the fear of the spread of Covid-19 cases. “Now swimming pools will be permitted for use of all, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs & Sports (MoYA&S) in consultation with MHA,” the order said on Wednesday.
The cinema halls, facing huge losses, had also been demanding that the number of seats be increased. The government has said that they can have more people watching the shows for which revised SOPs will be issued by information and broadcasting ministry.
Bhalla said, “The essence behind the graded re-opening and progressive resumption of activities is to move ahead.”
Containment zones will continue to be monitored carefully and state governments have been asked to take all necessary measures to promote Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and ensure wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.
There will be no restriction on any inter-state and intra-state movement.
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