One-seat distance, thermal scanning and staggered show timings: Union Government releases SOPs as theatres to open on October 15

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The COVID-19 pandemic hit India in February this year and cinema halls were closed down on March 14. After over six months since the shutdown of theatres, on October 1, the Ministry of Home Affairs released fresh guidelines of the Unlock 5 phase. Cinemas/ theatres/ multiplexes were permitted to open with up to 50% of their seating capacity, for which, SOP was to be issued by Ministry of Information & Broadcasting. For Entertainment parks and similar places, the SOP will be issued by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.

Today the Union Government released the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) in terms of various generic precautionary measures to be adopted in addition to specific measures to be ensured during the exhibition of films to prevent the spread of COVID-19. 

Using the hashtag UnlockWithPrecautions, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted a set of rules all cinema halls will have to follow to safely continue operating amid the pandemic.

"Cinema halls shall be allowed to open with 50 per cent capacity only and people will maintain one-seat distance. Alternate seats will be left vacant for social distancing. Wearing masks at all times inside the hall will be important," Mr Javadekar said. "COVID-19 related stigmatization or unruly behavior will be dealt with strictly," state rules issued by the Centre.

Floor and seat markers for social distancing, thermal scanning and "respiratory etiquettes" are among the things patrons will have to bear in mind after they are allowed entry on being cleared as "asymptomatic". The government has also asked to prefer digital and no-contact transactions for the payments for tickets, food, and beverages, etc. 

"We encourage online booking for contact-less transactions. Proper ventilation has to be ensured and temperature setting of all air conditioning should be above 23 degree Celsius," the I&B Minister told the press at his residence.

Mr Javadekar added that sufficient time should be provided to ensure row-wise staggered entry and exit of the audience. "The show commencement time, intermission period and end of a show at any screen shall not overlap with the start, intermission or end of a show at any other screen in a multiplex," the ministry said.

Though the rules do not restrict visits to the cafeteria or toilets, they encourage patrons to "avoid movement during the intermission" and that all snacks sold should be "packed".

(Source: Twitter) 

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