Fifty per cent occupancy, staggered show timings, social distancing, thermal screening, adequate protection gear for the staff, and compulsorily providing phone numbers for "contact tracing" are among the guidelines issued for reopening cinema halls, theatres and multiplexes from October 15. These establishments, which have remained closed since March because of the coronavirus outbreak, were recently allowed to resume operations as per guidelines issued under Unlock 5 .
Using the hashtag UnlockWithPrecautions, Information and Broadcasting Minister Prakash Javadekar tweeted a set of rules all cinema halls will have to follow to safely continue operating amid the pandemic.
"Cinema halls shall be allowed to open with 50 per cent capacity only and people will maintain one-seat distance. Alternate seats will be left vacant for social distancing. Wearing masks at all times inside the hall will be important," Mr Javadekar said.
Announced the Standard operating procedures, SOP's for cinema halls, multiplexes etc. for screening of films, as they reopen from 15th of October as per Ministry of Home Affairs guidelines.#UnlockWithPrecautionspic.twitter.com/X1XZFZoDAT— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) October 6, 2020
"COVID-19 related stigmatization or unruly behavior will be dealt with strictly," state rules issued by the Centre.
A recap of Covid-safety norms and punishment, in case they are not observed, would become a part of the customary pre- and post-show advertisements.
Floor and seat markers for social distancing, thermal scanning and "respiratory etiquettes" are among the things patrons will have to bear in mind after they are allowed entry on being cleared as "asymptomatic".
Hand washing and sanitization provision will also be made, besides mandatory use of Aarogya Setu and providing cellphone numbers for contact tracing. However, the rules emphasise the need for "self-monitoring" health.
Majority Covid patients remain asymptomatic for a long time and run the risk of exposing others to the highly infectious virus during this time.
Recent findings about "coronavirus remaining air borne for several hours" have also raised questions about effectiveness of the 6-foot-distance rule in closed spaces, with emphasis now squarely on practicing collectively responsible behaviour.
To reduce contact, Centre's guidelines promote use of digital payment systems in, increasing number of counters at the Box Office for single-screen theatres and frequent sanitization of the area.
"We encourage online booking for contact-less transactions. Proper ventilation has to be ensured and temperature setting of all air conditioning should be above 23 degree Celsius," the I&B Minister told the press at his residence.
Mr Javadekar added that sufficient time should be provided to ensure row-wise staggered entry and exit of the audience. "The show commencement time, intermission period and end of a show at any screen shall not overlap with the start, intermission or end of a show at any other screen in a multiplex," the ministry said.
Though the rules do not restrict visits to the cafeteria or toilets, they encourage patrons to "avoid movement during the intermission" and that all snacks sold should be "packed".
While open-air theatres were allowed to resume operations from September 21 under Unlock 4, movie theatres, multiplexes and other closed entertainment spaces remained closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.
The Multiplex Association of India (MAI) had recently appealed to the government to allow theatres to reopen "on an urgent basis" saying the sector provides employment to lakhs of people and had lost an estimated Rs9,000 crore since the nationwide lockdown was first implemented in March.