Bengal govt allows opening of hotels, bars as per normal operational hours

Bengal govt allows opening of hotels, bars as per normal operational hours

Kolkata: The Bengal government on Saturday asked people to avoid crowded places stating that the Covid pandemic is not over yet, as Durga Puja pandals witnessed massive footfall on Chaturthi, even before the actual festival commenced, raising concern about the spread of the virus.

The state Health department urged people to take precautionary measures against the contagion and celebrate the festival from home.

With the night restrictions to remain suspended for the next 10 days from Sunday, the Bengal government also allowed shops, restaurants and bars to remain open as per normal operational hours, also permitting late closing of bars. This comes as a major step to boost the economy during the festive season.

As per the set norms, bars can remain open till midnight while there is no restriction of time for the operation of restaurants and eateries.

With a special license, a bar or restro-bar can serve liquor till 2 am. With the state government giving additional relaxations maintaining "late closing of bars may be allowed as per the extant rules", now, the bars and restro-bars can opt for the special license.

Night-long pandal-hopping is almost a ritual during Durga Puja and people prefer to dine out at their favourite restaurants or restro-bars with their near and dear ones. It results in good business as well for the hospitality sector, facilitating a huge turnover during Durga Puja.

The industry, however, witnessed setbacks due to the Covid pandemic as restaurants had to be shut for a major period of the last two years. The move of the state government is going to give a much-needed boost to the people involved in the sector. There are around 40,000 restaurants and 4,000 bars in the state.

It includes 10,000 restaurants and around 1,300 bars in Kolkata.

Besides extending the Covid restrictions till October 30, the Bengal government also allowed the movement of people and vehicles between 11 pm and 5 am for 10 days from Durga Puja to Lakshmi Puja (October 10 to 20).

Maha Saptami of Durga Puja is on October 12. The relaxation on night restrictions will allow people to visit pandals following the Covid guidelines even after 11 pm from the day of Chaturthi.

However, wearing of masks, maintenance of physical distancing and health and hygiene protocol has to be followed properly or else strict action would be taken as per the provisions of the Disaster Management Act 2005 and Indian Penal Code.

The Covid-19 pandemic is very much active and we must not forget about the precautions we have been taking to combat it all these months. During this Durga Puja festival, we must avoid crowded places. It will be wise to stay indoors and celebrate the festival virtually, the department said in an advisory.

"The celebration of Puja this year should be restricted within the family. Any type of social gatherings and processions must be avoided. The volunteers must keep strict surveillance in and around Puja pandals so that Covid protocols are followed and the entry of the visitors is restricted. There must be enough basins for washing hands and sanitisation arrangements in various locations and also in and around Puja pandals," it said.

It also suggested that the Puja organisers will also have to ensure that people do not loiter inside the pandals for long. There must be enough space inside the mandaps so that air can freely pass. Physical distancing must be maintained while offering 'anjali' to the goddess. There must be a mark of demarcation for each visitor inside the Puja pandals while offering 'anjali'.

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