Durga Puja, owing to COVID-19, will not be held with much pomp and show in West Bengal this year. As per the latest notification issued by the state government, all Durga Puja committees have been asked to follow necessary COVID-19 safety protocols, and also set up open pandals where visitors without masks will not be allowed to enter. The notification was issued just a few days after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee announced safety guidelines for puja committees.

The latest notification signed by Chief Secretary Rajiva Sinha stated that pandals this year should be spacious and should be kept open from all sides. And, in case, it becomes essential to have a closed ceiling, the sides will be kept open; if the sides have to be blocked, the ceiling needs to be kept open, he added. The news guidelines also focus on maintaining adequate social distance among visitors, starting from the beginning till immersion.

Further, as per the notification, organisers will be required to make adequate arrangements for distribution of masks in close vicinity to the pandals, who carelessly enter the premises without wearing masks. Likewise, the organisers need to ensure that hand sanitizer is available and that the visitors compulsorily use them while in the pandal premises.

Reportedly, certain rituals such as sindoor khela, pushpanjali, and prasad distribution needs to be organised in small groups and with spaced out timings. The government also added that in view of the COVID crisis, people are encouraged to bring flowers from home for pushpanjali.

Further, the notification underlines that to manage and avoid crowding, arrangements need to be in place so that people can visit the pandal premises from the day of Tritiya, i.e., three days prior to the start of five-day festival, which will begin on October 23. This year, cultural programmes will also not be allowed in or near pandal premises.

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