Guwahati, 13th October: The Assam government on Tuesday has issued guidelines for the celebration of Durga Puja festival in view of COVID-19 pandemic.

The state health department has issued the COVID-19 guidelines for organizing a Durga Puja festival in the state.

Assam Health Minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a press conference held in Guwahati that, the state government has not imposed any ban in the celebration of Durga Puja, but the organizers have to follow the government guidelines.

The Assam minister said that, all the volunteers, priests and puja organizers must get mandatorily tested for COVID-19 before puja starts (on Panchami day) and after immersion (Ekadasi day).

According to the government guidelines, all organizers of the puja committee must take permission from the district administration of the concerned district for organizing Durga Puja.

Pandals should be spacious and must remain open from all sides. Pandals must keep adequate space for arrangement of physical distancing of at least one-meter distance. Management must take measures to avoid crowding at all costs and mot more than 10 to 30 persons can aggregate at a time depending on the size of the pandal. Entry and exit gates must be separate. Use of face masks properly shall be mandatory for all visitors visiting a pandal. A priest must use a microphone so that devotees need not come close to him to offer Anjali. There will no distribution of Prasad in the pandal or community feasting,” said in the government guidelines copy.

Himanta Biswa Sarma said that, organizing cultural programmes before, during and after Puja days is strictly restricted and all the Puja pandals must be closed for the devotees at 10 pm.

Restaurants will be closed at 9 pm and only takeaway food should be allowed, subject to relevant permissions from the government. Pillion riding will not be allowed for males during Puja days. Pillion riding is allowed during Puja days for women or child below 15 years,” Himanta Biswa Sarma said.

Assam has so far registered 1,95,304 positive cases for COVID-19 and out of these 1,66,036 patients have discharged from hospitals and 826 persons died.