‘Aggressive’ Joint Services patrols on Phagwah day

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In a bid to prevent violations of the COVID-19 guidelines issued for Phagwah day observances, the National COVID-19 Task Force (NCTF) Secretariat has issued its own set of guidelines, emphasising that there will be aggressive Joint Services patrols on the holiday.

The Task Force’s guidelines follow the Ministry of Health guidelines issued for the observance of Phagwah. Similarly, the Task Force underscored that Phagwah events held at mandirs, including cultural programmes, chowtal samelan and satsang (service), are only allowed at 40 per cent capacity. Mandirs are, however, encouraged to utilise their outdoor spaces, where available.

Religious gatherings for the burning of Holika, which is done the night before, are allowed but social distancing must be enforced and the activity must adhere to the stipulated curfew. That means that by 22:30hrs, the activity must be completed and persons must return home.

The Task Force also noted that persons are encouraged to celebrate Phagwah within their home circles. Masks must be worn at all times, six feet social distancing must be maintained, and there must be regular hand washing and sanitisation.

Importantly, the Task Force noted that the celebrations do not involve the use of alcohol and all non-religious Phagwah activities, inclusive of Chutney Shows, Phagwah Parties and Limes, and Wet Fetes are prohibited.

This specific provision comes at the heels of a few local businesses advertising parties and hangouts on Phagwah day. This is strictly prohibited with the Task Force further stating that Phagwah celebrations in public spaces are not allowed and large gatherings are prohibited.

The Task Force also emphasised that the Joint Services will be conducting ‘COVICURB’ patrols nationwide to “aggressively enforce these guidelines”.

As per the guidelines issued by the Task Force, aside from the movement of devotees to and from places of worship, Phagwah celebrations on motorcades are prohibited. Additionally, social distancing must be respected and tolerance exercised, where and when persons do not want to engage in Phagwah celebrations.

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