100% occupancy will be allowed in theatres from Feb 1: Prakash Javadekar

100% occupancy will be allowed in theatres from Feb 1: Prakash Javadekar
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Cinema halls across the country will be permitted to operate at full capacity from February 1 with adherence to Covid-19 safety protocols, Union Minister for Information and Broadcasting anno­unced on Sunday.

Adequate physical distancing, mandatory face masks and sanitisation of auditorium after every screening are among the latest SOPs issued by the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting on Sunday, after the government allowed cinema halls to operate at 100 per cent occupancy from Monday.

Digital booking of tickets and staggered show timings to avoid crowding will be encouraged, the minister said, releasing a set of the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

“There is good news. In February, people can watch and enjoy films in as we are allowing full occupancy in all cinema halls. Cinema halls can now open at 100 per cent capacity. We encourage as much online booking (of tickets) as possible,” Javadekar said.

The development comes days after the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) allowed cinema halls and to operate with more people as per fresh Covid-19 reopening guidelines.

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According to new guidelines, no film shall be allowed to screen in containment zones and states and union territories may consider “proposing additional measures” as per their assessment.

To minimise physical contact, digital transactions should be the “most preferred mode” for booking tickets or payment. Contact number shall be taken at the time of booking of tickets to facilitate contact tracing.

“Sufficient number of counters at the box office shall be opened with adequate physical distancing norms, to prevent crowding during physical booking of tickets,” the SOPs read.

dequate time intervals between successive screenings on a single screen as well as on various screens in a multiplex shall be provided to ensure “row-wise staggered entry and exit of the audience”. “Staggered show timings will be encouraged so that the entry and exit of the crowd can be managed better. Sanitisation and all Covid-19 safety protocols must be followed,” Javadekar said.

Film exhibitors, producers and cinema hall owners hailed the Centre’s decision to permit movie to operate at 100 per cent capacity from February 1. The insiders said the move would help the industry recover from the pandemic-induced losses.

Continuing with the basic health guidelines amid the pandemic, there should be availability of hand sanitisers —preferably in the touch-free mode —at entry and exit points.

A thermal screening of all visitors and staff will be carried out at entry points, with only asymptomatic individuals allowed to enter, according to the guidelines. Installation and use of Aarogya Setu App “shall be advised to all,” the SOPs read.

Javadekar said he hopes people will “welcome” this move as the government is working towards relaxing several restrictions imposed due to the challenges posed by the pandemic.

Mandatory wearing of face cover for staff and sanitisation of cinema auditorium after every screening are part of the SOPs which also directs theatre owners to make arrangements for regular cleaning and disinfection drive at the box office, food and beverage areas, employee and staff lockers, toilets, public areas, and back office.

According to the guidelines, if any person visiting cinema hall is found COVID-19 positive the entire premise will have to be disinfected.

The ministry has also asked the cinema owners to make public service announcements on wearing masks, observing physical distancing and maintaining hand hygiene, before the screening, during intermission and at the end of the screening.

Any COVID-19 related stigmatisation or unruly behaviour shall be dealt with “strictly by coordination between the auditorium manager(s) and the local authorities”, the SOPs stated.

“Customers shall be encouraged to use cinema apps/QR codes, etc. for ordering food as much as possible and multiple sale counters in food and beverage area be made available wherever possible.”

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