Union Health Ministry on Wednesday, December 2, released a slew of standard operating procedures (SOPs) for market places to contain the spread of coronavirus.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with the gradual opening of economic activities, markets are witnessing high footfalls. The health ministry is apprehensive of the fact that markets might become one of the major sources of transmission of coronavirus. Consequently, the ministry decided to issue certain guidelines for both shopkeepers and the public to follow.
The ministry has directed all shop owners to keep a hand santiser at the entrance of their shops which must be sanitised every day, using one per cent Sodium Hypochlorite solution. Deep cleansing of toilets, handwashing and drinking water stations must be done at least 3-4 times daily, the ministry directed in a release.
The SOPs emphasised physical distancing of a minimum of six feet inside and outside the shops. The ministry has also directed shop owners to make marks on the floor to ensure social distancing. Shop owners will have to deploy sufficient personnel to monitor the queues as per physical distancing norms. Customers without masks should not be allowed to enter shops, the ministry said in the guidelines.
The health ministry also encouraged shop owners to ensure natural ventilation inside the shop. "Circulation of outdoor air needs to be increased, as much as possible, by opening windows and doors, using fans, or other methods," the guideline added.
Shop owners, employees, and visitors living in containment zones will not be allowed to enter the marketplaces, according to the SOPs. The ministry also suggested shop owners encourage online booking of groceries/items and delivery at customers' doorsteps. "The staff for home deliveries to be screened thermally by the vendors prior to allowing home deliveries," it added.
The ministry also suggested strategies that can be worked out by law enforcement agencies in collaboration with market associations to manage crowds such as engaging civil defence volunteers, home guards, and volunteers to regulate crowds, accessing control at parking lots to limit vehicle entry, and exploring staggered time of shops and utilities, thereby allowing them to remain open for a longer duration.