The state government today issued a set of guidelines to the Durga Puja committees for the upcoming festival amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the guidelines, the pandals have to be spacious and kept open from all sides for proper ventilation, hand sanitisers will have to be mandatorily placed at the vicinity of the pandals and wearing of face masks will be binding.

Puja Carnival and cultural programmes at or near the pandals would not be allowed. Some of the guidelines were announced by chief minister Mamata Banerjee after a meeting with the puja committees on 24 September.

The guidelines issued by state chief secretary Rajiva Sinha stated that in case the sides have to be blocked then the ceiling has to be kept open and pandals must have adequate space for ensuring physical distancing.

There has to be separate entry and exit gates with floor markings and other signages to ensure compliance of physical distancing norms. Adequate number of volunteers must be deputed and they should wear face masks and shields for safety.

Anjali, Prasad Bitaranand Sindoor Khela should be organised in a planned and staggered manner with smaller groups. Priests should use microphones so that the sound reaches worshippers standing even far away and thus avoid overcrowding. Again, devotees may be encouraged to offer **Anjali with flowers brought from homes so that collection points in the pandals do not become congested.

Judges for puja award programmes should not be allowed to enter the puja premises in huge convoys and not more than two cars of judges at a time should be allowed to visit a pandal.

“Ideally all visits for “judging” the pujas should be virtual and physical visits should be confined from 10 am to 3 pm. Electronic and social media should be used by organisers and public authorities to avoid overcrowding.

Inaugurations and immersions should be low-key and minimalist without much pomp and grandeur. Inauguration should be in virtual mode wherever possible. Ghats should be sanitised before and during immersion as well as time allotment should be done to ghat slots.

All permissions should be attained through online mode. State fire and emergency services department and local bodies would not charge any fees. Fifty per cent concession should be provided by power utility organisations.

As already announced by Miss Banerjee, a one-time financial assistance of Rs 50,000 per club would be provided by the government to enable them to undertake the required arrangements to address the pandemic.

Puja committees must ensure the health and safety norms for themselves and for the participants and visitors.