India set to reopen malls, temples but no sprinkling of holy water

Delhi:  India will throw open shopping malls, restaurants and places of worship that typically attract large crowds next week, officials said, even though coronavirus infections are rising at the fastest daily rate than at any time in the past three months. Anxious to jump-start an economy crippled by COVID-19 and put millions of people back to work, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government is dismantling its vast lockdown of the 1.3 billion population imposed in March. Strict guidelines will accompany the loosening of restrictions on Monday, however. Hotel guests will be tested for fever, masks will be compulsory at all times, and restaurants will have to set tables apart to maintain social distancing when they reopen on Monday, according to rules issued by the federal home ministry. In places of worship, people will be asked to wash their hands and feet before entering, and there will be no distribution of food offerings or sprinkling of holy water or touching of idols and holy books. In view of the potential threat of spread of infection, as far as feasible, recorded devotional music/songs may be played (but) choir or singing groups should not be allowed,” the home ministry said on its website.