Bhubaneswar: In view of the rapid surge in COVID-19 cases, the Odisha government on Wednesday banned religious gatherings at river ghats, ponds, seashore or near other water bodies during local festivals
The Office of Special Relief Commissioner, Odisha has written a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Bhubaneswar-Cuttack, all Collectors, Superintendents of Police and Municipal Commissioners to impose certain stipulations during observance or celebration of local festivals and festivities amid this COVID-19 pandemic situation.
According to the fresh guidelines, congregations at river banks, ghats, ponds, seashore or near other water bodies to take bath and organisation of mela (fair) have been prohibited.
While all religious congregations and celebrations have been prohibited, the conduct of rituals will continue in religious places and places of worship with a minimum number of priests, servitors and staff.
On the other hand, people are advised to perform the rituals, and puja at their home with family members only avoiding mass gatherings and adhering to the COVID-19 safety protocols such as physical distancing, use of face mask, covering and hand sanitizing.
The Odisha SRC also mentioned that, if required, appropriate restrictions may be imposed on the entry of devotees into churches/ temples/ mosques/ religious places/ places of worship and in the celebrations in churches/ temples/mosques/ religious places/places of worship, considering local conditions.
Collectors and Municipal Commissioners would decide the number of persons to attend any such religious ritual/ festival/Puja in their respective jurisdiction with strict adherence to COVID appropriate behaviour and norms. Besides, the devotees in these places will have to strictly follow Covid-19 safety protocols such as wearing of face masks, physical distancing and hand sanitizing.
In case of violation of COVID-19 safety protocols, local authorities can take strict action including criminal action under relevant acts including Disaster Management Act, 2005. Such violation shall entail fines for devotees as decided by the local authorities, the Odisha SRC further mentioned.