The Health Ministry on Tuesday issued standard operating procedures (SOPs) on preventive measures to contain spread of COVID-19 during festivities including a detailed site plan and regulation of crowds. As per the norms, feasible recorded devotional music/songs should be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed.
The months of October to December are time for festivities that witness gatherings of large number of people in specified locations for religious worship, fairs, rallies, exhibitions, cultural functions, processions etc. These events may last a day or a week or more. To prevent spread of COVID-19 infection, it is important that necessary preventive measures are followed for such events, the ministry said.
Various generic precautionary measures have been given which can be adopted in addition to specific measures to be taken at locations to prevent spread of COVID-19. No festive events will be allowed in containment zones. Persons above 65 years of age, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years are advised to stay at home. This applies to the event managers and staff as well.
The festivals, fairs, rallies, exhibitions, cultural functions, processions and plays/concerts associated with these festivities are mass events. Among the administrative requirement advised are to identify spatial boundaries and prepare a detailed site plan which would facilitate compliance with thermal screening, physical distancing, sanitization.
In case of events that run for days or weeks, the crowd density doesn’t remain the same throughout and usually peaks around certain hours of the day and some previously known auspicious days. Planning for the event should specifically factor this so that crowds are regulated and managed to ensure physical distance and frequent sanitization.
In case of rallies and immersion processions the number of people should not exceed the prescribed limit and proper physical distancing and wearing of masks must be ensured. In any case, the number of such rallies and the distance covered by them may be kept within manageable limits.
Events such as rallies, and processions spread over long distances may require support of ambulance services.
Events planned to last for many days or weeks such as exhibitions, fairs, puja pandals, ramlila pandals or concerts and plays should have adequate measures to ensure a cap on physical numbers. Staggered timings and restricted entry may be considered. Volunteers should be appropriately stationed to ensure thermal scanning, physical distancing and wearing of masks.
The generic preventive measures that include simple public health measures are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed by all; the event managers, the organisational staff and the public visiting the festivities and are that individuals must maintain a minimum distance of 6 feet in public places as far as feasible.
Use of face covers/masks will be mandatory, practice frequent hand washing with soap (for at least 40-60 seconds) even when hands are not visibly dirty. Use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers (for at least 20 seconds) can be made wherever feasible. iv. Respiratory etiquettes to be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one’s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue/handkerchief/flexed elbow and disposing off used tissues properly.
The guidelines prescribe that a plan should be prepared well in advance about conduct of each activity (religious places, rallies, processions, cultural shows, fairs etc.), with all relevant stakeholders including event organisers, business owners, market associations.
Festive events shall be permitted only outside the containment zones. Organisers/staff/visitors from containment zones shall not be permitted. People residing inside containment zones may be encouraged to observe all festivals inside their homes and not move out.
Keeping in view the physical distancing norms, event sites should have adequate floor area and proper markings at all locations which are likely to be visited by public. iv. Adequate manpower shall be deployed/ arranged by the organisers to ensure observance to physical distancing norms and other preventive measures at all times.
Adequate number of ticket counters shall be planned to facilitate compliance with physical distancing norms. Event organisers/business owners may make suitable provisions for contact less payment. In addition, a simple do’s and dont’s advisory may be circulated/displayed prominently at each event venue. Posters/standees/AV media on preventive measures from COVID-19 must be displayed prominently at the event sites.
For entry and exit to the event site, preferably multiple and separate entry and exits for visitors shall be ensured. The structure/space/venue for the event must also ensure adequate natural cross-ventilation. Entrances should have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions.
Only those staff and visitors who are free of symptoms shall be allowed inside the venue. Anyone found symptomatic during thermal screening should be politely refused entry and advised to seek immediate medical care. All staff and visitors to be allowed entry only if using face cover/masks. The face cover/mask has to be worn by all at all times while in public places.
For entry into the religious places, shoes/footwear should be preferably taken off inside own vehicle. If needed, they should be kept in separate slots for each individual/family by the persons themselves.
Seating arrangement in the pandals, food courts, shows etc. must ensure adequate physical distancing. Any shops, stalls, cafeteria etc., outside and within the premises too shall follow physical distancing norms at all times. Arrangements for safe drinking water, if required, should be made (preferably with provision for disposable cups/glasses) in the event premises.
In religious places, touching of statues/idols / holy books etc. shall not be allowed. In view of potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed.
Community kitchens/langars/”Ann-daan”, etc. at event venue should follow physical distancing norms while preparing and distributing food. Community kitchen managers and business owners of food outlets have to ensure adherence to highest level of personal and environmental hygiene all the time, especially at the time of preparing, serving /eating meals and after disposal.
Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises will have to be maintained with particular focus on commonly touched surfaces/areas including lavatories, drinking and hand washing stations/areas.
Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1 per cent sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, que barricades, seats, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) to be made mandatory in all public utility common areas.
Visitors and staff should be advised to dispose of used face covers/masks in covered bins available at the premises. The waste thus generated may be disposed of in accordance with the hazardous waste disposal guidelines.
Australian state stalls easing Covid-19 curbs
Sydney, Oct 15 (IANS) Australia’s New South Wales (NSW) has stalled easing Covid-19 restrictions after new cluster outbreaks were reported in the state capital of Sydney, authorities said on Thursday.
On Thursday morning, the state registered six new locally acquired infections, which followed 11 local transmissions the day before, Xinhua news agency reported.
State leaders have described the present situation it as the most concerning since mid-July, when an outbreak at a western Sydney pub resulted in over 50 cases and a clampdown on the hospitality sector.
“This is the most concerned we’ve been since that first incident when the Victorian citizen came up, infected his colleagues and went for a drink at a hotel,” NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said in a briefing.
Health officials flagged several new areas where a person had been while infected with the virus, including public transport services, a tutoring service and shopping mall.
On Tuesday, the government announced that up to 500 people would be allowed to attend outdoor music performances, as long as they remained seated and groups remained four meters apart.
Restrictions for outdoor dining venues were also relaxed, allowing one patron per two square meters, as long as venues use an electronic contact tracing system to record patrons’ contact details.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard urged anyone with even the slightest of symptoms to get tested, as well as to cooperate fully with questions to assist health officials with contact tracing.
“We are aiming to have at least 20,000 (tests) a day and while we have these positive cases still amongst us the emphasis is… Please get tested,” he added.
Of Australia’s 27,341 overall case tally, NSW accounts for 4,310 infections.
The country’s death toll stands at 904.
Andhra registers 3,892 more Covid cases, tally 7.67 lakh
Amaravati, Oct 14 (IANS) Andhra Pradesh on Wednesday registered 3,892 new Covid positive cases, increasing the state’s tally to 7.67 lakh cases, even as 5,050 recoveries outnumbered fresh infections.
East Godavari accounted for the highest number of cases at 607, followed by West Godavari (518), Krishna (458), Chittoor (405), Guntur (345), Kadapa (332), Anantapur (290), Nellore (219), Visakhapatnam (163), Srikakulam (154), Vizianagaram (151), Prakasam (146) and Kurnool (104).
East Godavari continues to battle the highest number of infections at 1.07 lakh. At the lower end, Krishna district has witnessed 32,910 cases so far.
Not just having the highest Covid tally among the 13 districts, East Godavari is also shouldering the highest active cases at 7,135.
Meanwhile, 28 patients succumbed to the virus in the past 24 hours, one of the lowest daily Covid death counts in the recent past.
With the new additions, the statewide Covid death toll has reached 6,319.
As always, the positive trend of higher recoveries continues to occur in the southern state. On Wednesday, 5,050 more patients recovered from the virus, raising the total number of recoveries to 7.19 lakh.
Of the total 7.67 lakh cases, the number of active cases currently stands at 41,669.
The state’s positivity rate stands at 11.3 per cent at present.
Andhra Pradesh tested 69,463 samples on Wednesday. In total, the state has tested 67.7 lakh samples for Covid until now.
After Sputnik V, Russia approves another Covid-19 vaccine: Putin
Moscow, Oct 14 (IANS) Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday announced that the country has registered the second Covid-19 vaccine, according to media reports.
Russia became the first country to give regulatory approval to a Covid-19 vaccine in August when Sputnik V was officially registered ahead of large-scale clinical trial, drawing criticism from some quarters in the scientific community.
The second Russian vaccine to get regulatory approval has been developed by the Vector State Research Centre of Virology and Biotechnology.
Vector’s vaccine, dubbed “EpiVacCorona”, relies on chemically synthesized peptide antigens of SARS-CoV-2 proteins, conjugated to a carrier protein and adsorbed on an aluminum-containing adjuvant, according to details posted at ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of privately and publicly funded clinical studies conducted around the world.
Putin said that a third Russian vaccine against Covid-19, developed by the Chumakov Centre, would also be registered in the near future, Sputnik news agency reported.
Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova said that she tested EpiVacCorona vaccine herself and experienced no side effects, said the report.
“The Vector centre is also initiating post-registration clinical trials in the various regions of Russia that would include 40,000 volunteers,” she was quoted as saying.
European countries impose new Covid-19 curbs as cases spike
Countries across Europe were imposing a series of new restrictions in an effort to curb the spread of the coronavirus pandemic amid a spike in the number of fresh cases and deaths across the continent.
As of Thursday, the continent’s overall caseload stands at 4,301,247, while the death toll has surged to 197,075, according to the latest update by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
The agency said that Europe’s infection rate “has been increasing for 77 days” and there were more than 700,000 new coronavirus cases last week, which was a 36 per cent weekly increase.
In France, one of the worst-hit European countries, President Emmanuel Macron on Wednesday announced that a curfew will be introduced in big cities as a reaction to the recent resurgence of new cases.
Starting from Friday midnight, a four-week 9 p.m.-6 a.m. curfew will be imposed in the greater Paris region and the eight major cities of Grenoble, Lille, Lyon, Aix-Marseille, Rouen, Toulouse, Montpellier and Saint-Etienne, Xinhua news agency reported.
These regions are already on maximum alert, with bars and gyms shut down, theatres and restaurants under strict health protocol.
Gatherings of more than 10 people are prohibited in public spaces such as beaches and parks.
Anyone violating the curfew would be fined 135 euros, and permissions will be available for those who have health emergencies and work at night.
Presently, France has a total of 779,063 Covid-19 cases, Europe’s second biggest tally after Spain, with 33,037 deaths.
In the UK, a new three-tier Covid-19 alert system came into force across England on Wednesday.
The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rate.
The UK has so far reported a total of 654,644 coronavirus cases, with 43,155 fatalities, the highest death toll in Europe.
On Wednesday, Italy, the once epicentre of the pandemic in Europe, reported its largest single-day spike, with more than 7,300 cases, which took the overall tally to 372,799, while the death toll surged to 36,289.
The grim milestone came a day after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree putting new limits on gatherings, sports and school activities.
But bars and restaurants are still allowed to operate until midnight, but only for table service, NPR news reported.
The Catalonian region of Spain has ordered all bars and restaurants to close their on-premises operations, saying they can only sell to-go items for the next 15 days.
Shopping areas, theatres and gyms will have to operate at reduced capacity.
While the Czech Republic, has closed schools, restaurants and bars, The Netherlands is enacting a partial lockdown due to a recent resurgence.
UK’s 3-tier coronavirus alert system kicks in
A new three-tier Covid-19 alert system set out by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has come into force across England as the country struggles to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
The alert system comprises three levels: “Medium”, “High” and “Very High” with the level being decided according to local infection rates, reports Xinhua news agency.
The Liverpool City Region is placed in the “very high” level which sees venues such as bars and pubs closed unless they can operate as restaurants, while people are also banned from socializing with other households.
Currently, most of England is placed in the first tier of the government’s three-tier system, which means an alert level of “medium”.
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer has announced that he now supported a complete two or three weeks of lockdown across England as a “circuit breaker” to halt the spread of the virus.
He proposed a temporary set of restrictions, designed to get the infection rate down, with every pub, bar and restaurant in England closed for two-to-three weeks.
Starmer said it could be timed to coincide with school half term holidays to minimize disruption.
According to a paper by two of the government’s leading scientific advisers, a “short, sharp” two-week lockdown over the October half term break could prevent more than 7,000 deaths.
On Wednesday, Johnson told MPs at Parliament that he rules out nothing in the fight against coronavirus, but that he wants to “avoid the misery of another national lockdown”.
“I rule out nothing, of course, in combating the virus but we’re going to do it with the local, regional approach that can drive down and will drive down the virus if it is properly implemented,” he said.
Also on Wednesday, Northern Ireland announced that the region is set to begin a four-week “circuit breaker” lockdown from Friday.
Among other restrictions, the hospitality sector in the region will be required to close apart from deliveries and takeaways for food, with the existing closing time of 11 p.m. remaining.
Meanwhile, no overnight stays in a private residence will be allowed unless in a bubble; close contact services such as hairdressers and beauticians are not permitted to open, apart from those relating to the continuation of essential health interventions and therapeutics.
Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford on Wednesday announced that the country will ban travellers from rest of the UK’s coronavirus hotspots from Friday, adding that the evidence suggests Covid-19 is “moving from east to west across the UK and across Wales”.
The measure will apply to tier-two and tier-three areas of England, according to Drakeford.
On Wednesday, the UK reported 19,724 new Covid-19 cases, which took the overall infection tally in the country to 654,644, according to official figures released Wednesday.
The death toll increased to 43,155 after 137 new fatalities.
Hand hygiene for all in corona times (Oct 15 is Global Handwashing Day)
October 15 is Global Handwashing Day, a global advocacy day, dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding about the importance of handwashing with soap as an effective and affordable way to prevent diseases and save lives.
The Covid-19 pandemic provides a stark reminder that one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of a virus is also one of the simplest: hand hygiene, especially through handwashing with soap. To beat the virus today and ensure better health outcomes beyond the pandemic, handwashing with soap must be a priority now and in the future.
This year’s theme, Hand Hygiene for All, calls for all of society to achieve universal hand hygiene.
The link between handwashing and health was first established less than two centuries ago.
Ignaz Semmelweis, a Hungarian doctor working in Vienna General Hospital, is known as the father of hand hygiene. In 1846, he noticed that the women giving birth in the medical student/doctor-run maternity ward, in his hospital, were much more likely to develop a fever and die, compared to the women giving birth. He noticed that doctors and medical students often visited the maternity ward directly after performing an autopsy.
Taking cognizance of the seriousness, Semmelweis imposed a new rule mandating handwashing with chlorine for doctors. The rates of death in his maternity ward fell dramatically. This was the first proof that cleansing hands could prevent infection.
A few years later in Scutari-Italy, the Crimean War brought about a new handwashing champion, Florence Nightingale. At a time when most people believed that infections were caused by foul odors called miasmas, Florence Nightingale implemented handwashing and other hygiene practices in the war hospital in which she worked.
Sadly, handwashing promotion stood still for over a century. It was not until the 1980s, when a string of food-borne outbreaks and healthcare-associated infections led to public concern.
SITUATION IN INDIA
Communicating the importance of washing hands with soap to avoid Covid-19 spread is a daunting task in India as only 35.8 per cent households in the country practice hand-washing with soap or detergent before a meal, while 60 per cent households wash hands only with water.
The National Sample Survey (NSS) 76th round report-2019, reveals that 25.3 per cent households in rural India and 56 per cent in urban wash hands with soap or detergent before a meal. Also, 2.7 per cent households wash hands with ash, mud, and sand before meals.
In rural areas, 70 per cent people wash hands with water without soap or detergent, before a meal, and in urban areas, 42 per cent of people follow this practice.
What is more alarming is that about 26 per cent people in India don’t wash their hands with soap or detergent after defecation. 13.4 per cent households (15.2 per cent rural and 9.8 per cent urban) wash hands only with water after defecation. Two-third toilets in India have water and soap/detergent available in or around the toilets.
Diarrhoea and pneumonia are leading causes of death for children under the age of five. Handwashing can save lives and can decrease diarrhoea by almost one-half and acute respiratory infections by nearly one-quarter.
Handwashing with soap impacts not just health and nutrition, but also education, economics, and equity.