Centre issues fresh COVID guidelines: Swimming pools open for all, more can watch films in cinema halls from 1 Feb

Centre issues fresh COVID guidelines: Swimming pools open for all, more can watch films in cinema halls from 1 Feb
Israel: Passengers wearing protective suits and masks are seen at Ben Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv, Israel, on Jan. 19, 2021, as Israel's cabinet decided to extend by 10 days a weeks-long nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. (Gideon Markowicz/JINI via Xinhua/ians)

New Delhi: The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday allowed cinema halls and theatres to operate with more people while swimming pools have been permitted for use by all in fresh COVID-19 reopening guidelines.

According to these new guidelines, to be effective from 1 February, there shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods including those for cross land-border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries.

No separate permission/ approval/e-permit will be required for such movements, the MHA said. All activities have been permitted outside containment zones, except a few which will be subject to strict adherence of SOPs.

Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings have already been permitted up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 people in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground or space in view, in open spaces.

"Now such gatherings will be allowed subject to SOP of the state and UT concerned. Cinema halls and theatres have already been permitted up to 50 percent of seating capacity. Now they will be permitted to operate at higher seating capacity, for which a revised SOP will be issued by Ministry of Information and Broadcasting in consultation with MHA," the guidelines said.

Swimming pools have already been permitted for use of sportspersons. Now, these will be permitted for use of all, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Ministry of Youth Affairs and Sports in consultation with MHA.

Business to Business (B2B) exhibition halls have already been permitted. Now all types of exhibition halls will be permitted, for which a revised SOP will be issued by the Department of Commerce in consultation with MHA.

The main focus of the guidelines 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 and SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW)," the guidelines said.

Containment zones, if required, shall be carefully demarcated by the district authorities at the micro-level, taking into consideration guidelines prescribed by the MoHFW in this regard. Within the demarcated containment zones, containment measures, as prescribed by MoHFW shall be scrupulously followed.

Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed and state and Union Territory governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard.

The MHA said state and Union Territory governments shall take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and ensure the wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

The National Directives for COVID-19 Management shall continue to be followed throughout the country, so as to enforce COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. For further opening up of international air travel of passengers, Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) may take a decision in consultation with MHA based on the assessment of the situation.

The SOPs, as updated from time to time, have been prescribed for various activities.

These include: movement by passenger trains; air travel; metro trains; schools; higher educational institutions; hotels and restaurants; shopping malls, multiplexes and entertainment parks; yoga centres and gymnasiums, etc. These SOPs shall be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned, who shall be responsible for their strict observance, the guidelines said.

Persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years have been advised to take the necessary precautions.

(With inputs from PTI and IANS)

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