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NEW DELHI: With the festive season posing a major challenge during the Covid-19 pandemic, the Union Health Ministry has issued guidelines for large gatherings, including ensuring adequate area for events with a detailed site map and proper markings to maintain social distancing and not allowing touching of idols and holy books, to prevent the spread of infection.

Festive events shall be permitted only outside the containment zones, while people residing in the restricted areas may be encouraged to observe all festivals inside their homes and not move out, according to the ministry.

Releasing the ‘Standard Operating Procedures’, the ministry said that the period from October to December witnesses large gatherings for religious worship, fairs, cultural functions, processions, etc, and it is important that necessary preventive measures are followed for such events which may last a day, a week or more.

As far as feasible recorded devotional music/songs may be played and choir or singing groups should not be allowed, the SOPs stated.

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 the public, the SOPs said underlining that only those staff and visitors who are free of symptoms shall be allowed inside the venue.

All staff and visitors will be allowed entry only if they are using face cover/masks, which have to be worn by all at all times and physical distance of a minimum of six feet, when queuing up for entry and inside the venue, as far as feasible has to be followed. Specific markings for the purpose may be done.

“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,” the SOPs said.

In the 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.

Events such as rallies, and processions spread over long distances may require the support of ambulance services, it underscored.

The competent authority may implement additional measures within their jurisdiction as per their local assessment and in line with activities permitted by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) as per its orders issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 from time to time.

Disinfection of premises has to be undertaken if any person is found positive.

“Identify spatial boundaries and prepare a detailed site plan which would facilitate compliance with thermal screening, physical distancing, sanitization etc,” it said.

Close-circuit cameras etc. may be considered to monitor compliance of physical distance norms, wearing of masks at each venue.

In the case of rallies and processions, route planning, identification of immersion sites, ensuring cap on numbers, physical distancing, etc. must be planned and measures for enforcement outlined.

All events must plan for medical care arrangements with linkages to the nearest hospitals to attend to health emergencies, the guidelines stated.

The guidelines issued for theatre and cinema artists will apply to stage performers.

According to the SOPs, the event sites should have a designated isolation room or space for isolating any person found symptomatic during the events, till such time that medical help is available.

Preferably multiple and separate entry and exit points for visitors shall be ensured, the ministry said adding the structure or venue for the event must also have adequate natural cross-ventilation and entrances should have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal screening provisions.

Proper crowd management inside and outside premises like parking lots, waiting areas, stalls, eateries, etc. duly following physical distancing norms shall be ensured.

For entry into religious places, footwear needs to be preferably taken off by the people inside their own vehicle. If needed they should be kept in separate slots for each individual or family by the persons themselves, the guidelines said.

The SOPs outlined that seating arrangement in pandaals, food courts and shows must ensure adequate physical distancing.

Any shops, stalls or cafeteria outside and within the premises too shall follow physical distancing norms at all times and there should be arrangements for safe drinking water.

Community kitchen managers and business owners of food outlets have been directed to ensure adherence to the highest level of personal and environmental hygiene all the time.

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 guidelines said.

Effective and frequent sanitation within the premises shall be maintained with particular focus on commonly touched surfaces and areas including lavatories, drinking and handwashing stations/areas.

Cleaning and regular disinfection (using 1% sodium hypochlorite) of frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs, elevator buttons, handrails, barricades, seats, benches, washroom fixtures, etc.) should be made mandatory in all public utility common areas, the SOPs stated.

On Tuesday, the Health Ministry put the caseload in India at 66,85,082. The total recoveries surpassed 56 lakh improving the recovery rate to 84.70 per cent.

The Times of India is an Indian English-language daily newspaper owned by The Times Group. It is the third-largest newspaper in India by circulation and largest selling English-language daily in the world. according to Audit Bureau of Circulations.

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INDIA

India calls for complete ceasing of support to terrorist forces in Middle East

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UNITED NATIONS: India has called on all concerned parties to completely stop supporting terrorist forces, like the ISIS, while urging all stakeholders in the Middle East to work constructively for peace, stability and development.

India underscored that it has invested considerably in the peace and stability of the region by deploying its personnel as part of UN peacekeeping forces, through humanitarian assistance, development cooperation, capacity building, and will continue contributing towards peace-building in the Middle East.

“India calls on concerned parties to completely stop support to terrorist forces, like ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and others. India also urges all parties in the region to work constructively and in good faith to promote peace, stability and development for the benefit of all people in the Middle East,” India said in a written statement on Monday on the Security Council’s open debate on ‘The Situation in the Middle East’.

India said the truce between Israel and the Hamas has eased the humanitarian situation in Gaza and expressed hope that the temporary truce is converted into a permanent ceasefire, which can save precious human lives on both sides and create a conducive environment for talks.

“It is an unfortunate reality that the interlinked and mutually reinforcing challenges faced by the people of the Middle East have not yet been resolved. Political instability, long-festering conflicts, sectarian divides, issue of refugees and terrorism continue to plague the region. The COVID-pandemic has only exacerbated the threats posed by these challenges,” India said.

The statement made India’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, will go as part of the official record of the Council.

India said it appreciates the agreement between Fatah and Hamas for holding Parliamentary and Presidential elections and also elections for the Palestinian National Council, which will help fulfill the democratic aspirations of the Palestinian people.

India also welcomed the agreements for normalisation of relations between Israel and the UAE and Bahrain. “India has always supported peace and stability in West Asia, which is our extended neighbourhood,” India said.

Further, India said the commencement of discussions on the disputed border between Israel and Lebanon is a significant development, expressing hope that this will provide an opportunity to resolve the longstanding issue between the two countries.

India highlighted that Palestinian aspirations for a sovereign and independent state are yet to be fulfilled and stressed that New Delhi has been unwavering in its commitment to the Palestinian cause and continues to remain supportive of a peaceful negotiated resolution of the Palestinian issue.

“India has supported the two-state solution as a just and acceptable solution to the conflict. Establishment of a Palestinian State living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel, within mutually agreed borders should be achieved through negotiations directly by the two parties,” India said adding that any stalemate could strengthen the hands of extremists and shut the door to cooperation thereby jeopardising the security, stability and prosperity of the people on both sides and the region.

Accordingly, India urged Israel and Palestine to resume direct negotiations at the earliest and called upon the international community to take concrete steps towards resuming and facilitating these negotiations quickly.

India noted that the decade-long armed conflict in Syria has claimed over 400,000 lives, displaced 6.2 million people internally and compelled another 6.3 million people to seek shelter in neighbouring countries.

“While we are heartened to see return of normalcy to major parts of the country, we are also reminded of the enormous resources that would be required to provide urgent humanitarian aid, rebuild infrastructure, enable return of the refugees and restore a normal and dignified life of all Syrians,” the statement said.

India said in the statement that it is not only contributing to the return of normalcy and rebuilding of Syria, but has also consistently called for a comprehensive and peaceful resolution of the Syrian conflict through a Syrian-led dialogue, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the people of Syria.

India voiced concern over the security and humanitarian situation in Yemen and said the recent exchange of prisoners by the Government of Yemen and Ansar Allah, who had been detained in connection with the conflict, is a welcome development.

“India hopes that the parties will take more confidence building measures to provide the necessary impetus for the full implementation of the Stockholm Agreement,” the statement read.

India also hopes for peace and stability in Iraq with full respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

India noted that in the aftermath of the August blast that brought destruction to vast swathes of Beirut and inflicted heavy loss of lives, India stood in solidarity with Lebanon.

New Delhi sent emergency humanitarian aid of over 58 metric tons to Beirut. “We look forward to the swift formation of a new government that can offer political stability and also tackle the grave socio-economic challenges being faced by the people of Lebanon,” the statement said.

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INDIA

US, India must focus on threat posed by China: Secretary of state Mike Pompeo

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NEW DELHI: US secretary of state Mike Pompeo on Tuesday stressed on the need for Washington and New Delhi to work together to counter the threat posed by Beijing to “security and freedom”

Pompeo’s comment came during the crucial 2+2 dialogue between India and the US, which saw the signing of a crucial defence agreement between the two countries.

“There is much more work to do for sure. We have a lot to discuss today: Our cooperation on the pandemic that originated in Wuhan, to confronting the Chinese Communist Party’s threats to security and freedom to promoting peace and stability throughout the region,” Pompeo said during talks with defence minister Rajnath Singh and external affairs minister S Jaishankar. Pompeo was joined by defence secretary Mark Esper.

Esper too focussed on the apparent threat posed by China, specifically in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Our focus now must be on institutionalising and regularising our cooperation to meet the challenges of the day and uphold the principles of a free and open Indo-Pacific well into the future,” Esper said.

The comments assume significance as India is locked in a border standoff with China in eastern Ladakh.

In June this year, 20 Indian soldiers and an unspecified number of PLA soldiers were killed in a clash with Chinese troops in Galwan Valley in eastern Ladakh, hardening the mood in India against China and driving Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government to seek closer military ties with the United States.

In the US, President Donald Trump has made being tough on China a key part of his campaign to secure a second term in next week’s presidential election and Pompeo has been trying to bolster allies to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region.

This month, India invited Australia to join naval drills it holds each year with the United States and Japan, brushing off Chinese concerns that the exercises destabilise the region.

(With inputs from agencies)

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INDIA

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Defence Secretary Mark Esper meet NSA Doval

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NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defence Secretary Mark T Esper on Tuesday held talks with National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, covering key aspects of growing strategic ties between the two countries.

Issues of strategic importance were discussed at the meeting, sources said.

The meeting took place ahead of the third edition of 2+2 ministerial dialogue. Esper and Pompeo arrived here on Monday for the crucial talks aimed at further boosting the defence and security ties between the two countries.

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh and External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar held separate talks with their US counterparts on Monday.

Earlier on Tuesday, both the top US administration officials visited the National War Memorial and paid tributes to India’s fallen heroes.

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