Katina ‘perahera’, pooja on low key: Health Ministry issues strict health guidelines
By Dilanthi Jayamanne
With the annual ‘Katina pinkam,’ to commence next month, the Department of Buddhist Religious Affairs (DBRA) has issued a directive urging Buddhist devotees to abide by the guidelines issued by the Health Ministry and not to engage in the annual processions. The Department noted that adhering to health guidelines under the prevailing COVID pandemic the Katina ‘perahera’ and the pooja offerings should be conducted on a low key. “While processions cannot be permitted, the pooja and the offering of alms could be conducted with the participation of a maximum of 20 persons.
Also, permission will be given to hold Katinanisansa Dhamma sermons with the participation of a maximum of 20 devotees. The Health Ministry too has not given permission after the country opened to conduct religious ceremonies with community participation. Meanwhile, revising existing health guidelines further, the Health Ministry has noted that outdoor wedding ceremonies would continue to be encouraged from 16 to 31 October 2021 for a maximum of 50 persons.
The guidelines released yesterday (14) noted that not more than 25 per cent of persons would be permitted to enter a wedding hall. In a document issued by the Director General Health Services (DGHS) Dr. Asela Gunawardena also said not more than 15 mourners would be permitted at a time at funerals. Other than those who succumbed to COVID-19, a funeral house or parlour could have not more than the said number at any given time. Walking parks and beaches would be open while gymnasiums could only have a maximum of 10 persons at a time.
At all times they should only fill 30 per cent of their capacity. Permission has not been given to open cinema halls, hold exhibitions, seminars, tuition classes, parties and gatherings whether indoors or outdoors. Shops, boutiques, pharmacies, and supermarkets could only have customers to fill 20% of their capacity at a time while banks, pawn shops and finance companies could only have five of their customers within the premises at a time. The remaining customers should queue outside maintaining a one-metre distance.
Barber salons could conduct business with time reservations for their customers. Measures are also being taken to open schools. The Education Ministry has currently decided to open schools with less than 200 children. Also, Pre-Schools could open with 50% of their student population at a given time. Universities could reopen adhering to health guidelines. However, it is advisable to reduce the number of students attending classes and conduct lectures parallel to the online learning system. Vocational Training Institutions too could conduct their training programmes with 50% of their student population at any given time.
Physical attendance at examinations could be permitted while candidates would have to strictly adhere to health guidelines that have been given. Industries and construction sites could be conducted adhering to health guidelines. Agricultural activities would be permitted Out-door dining is encouraged with tables arranged outside their premises. However, they too could fill only 30% of their capacity limiting their customers to a maximum of 50. No liquor is permitted. If outdoor seating is available, these eateries would be permitted to a maximum of 60 customers. Community service would not be permitted in places of religious worship. The guidelines are to be reviewed and revised on 31 October 2021. Those who do not adhere to the guidelines could be punished underquarantine regulations as amended, the DGHS said.