NEW DELHI, Dec 2 - In the face of all-round unlocking, the Centre on Wednesday announced a set of standard operating procedures (SOP) for markets.
The Health Ministry, acknowledging the fact that marketplaces are visited by large numbers of people for their daily needs, has designed a protocol to contain the spread of COVID-19. With gradual reopening of economic activities amid the pandemic, markets are witnessing high footfalls. Such huge gatherings, without observance of COVID-19 appropriate behaviour, have the potential to spread the novel coronavirus disease, said official sources.
The new guidelines shall be applicable to both retail and wholesale markets. Some of the bigger markets may also have malls, hyper malls and supermarkets in them.
Similarly, for offices, places of worship, training institutes, yoga institutes and gymnasiums, cinema halls, theatres and any other specific activities which are part of these markets or are situated within the market complex, specific guidelines issued from time to time by the ministry shall be applicable.
The guidelines require persons above 65 years of age, people with comorbidities, pregnant women and children below 10 to stay at home, except for essential and health purposes. Market owners� bodies shall be advised accordingly.
Employees who are at higher risk i.e. older employees, pregnant employees and employees who have underlying medical conditions must take extra precautions.
Simple public health measures are to be followed to reduce the risk of COVID-19. These measures need to be observed at all times by shop and establishment owners, visitors and workers.
These measures include: physical distancing of at least six feet to be followed as far as feasible, use of face covers and masks must be made mandatory, practising frequent handwashing with soap, use of alcohol-based hand sanitizers can be made outside shops and other places wherever feasible.
Respiratory etiquette must be strictly followed. This involves strict practice of covering one�s mouth and nose while coughing/sneezing with a tissue, handkerchief and flexed elbow and disposing of used tissues properly. Spitting shall be strictly prohibited.
In normal times, markets are usually crowded with high footfalls and suffer from lack of adequate sanitation amenities and have poor hygiene conditions. To prevent the risk of transmission of COVID, it is crucial that a healthy environment is maintained at marketplaces, according to the fresh guidelines.
Again, prior to resumption of daily activities, all work areas inside the shops shall be sanitized by shop owners using one per cent sodium hypochlorite solution.
Cleaning and regular disinfection of frequently touched surfaces and floors, walls, etc., must be done before opening of shops, at the end of the day and at other appropriate times. Entrance to the shops must have mandatory hand hygiene (sanitizer dispenser) arrangements, the guidelines said.
Further, public utility areas and open spaces shall be sanitized with one per cent sodium hypochlorite solution on a regular basis. Deep cleansing of the toilets, handwashing and drinking water stations must be done three-four times daily.
According to the fresh guidelines COVID appropriate behaviour at marketplaces may be self-regulated by market associations through a number of measures.
Mask dispensing kiosks at government approved rates may be set up at entry points and parking lots. Provision must be made for distribution of free masks for those who cannot afford to buy them.
As far as feasible, natural ventilation must be ensured and use of small enclosed spaces must be discouraged. Circulation of outdoor air must be increased as much as possible by opening windows and doors, using fans or by other methods.