The Punjab government on Tuesday allowed the distribution of prasad at places of worship and said all community kitchens and langars will also be reopened, PTI reported. The Ministry of Home Affairs in its guidelines to stop the spread of the coronavirus had advised against all physical offerings like prasad distribution or sprinkling of holy water inside a religious place.

The order, issued by the Punjab Home Department, said all necessary precautions will be taken to curb the spread of infection. “It has now been decided to allow community kitchens, langar and serving of prasad at religious places subject to the conditions that physical distancing norms and all Covid hygiene precautions while preparing and distributing food shall be strictly followed,” it stated, according to the Hindustan Times.

Punjab Chief Minister Amarinder Singh also defended the practice and said his government had “never believed in interfering with the customs and practices of any religion”.

Shopping malls, restaurants, hotels and places of worship opened in many states across India on June 8 as part of “Unlock-1”. This is the first of the three-phase plan for a calibrated exit from the lockdown enforced to contain the coronavirus pandemic.

The Central government in its guidelines issued last week, stated that all places of worship that open up will have to ensure physical distancing is in place, and sanitise and screen devotees at regular intervals. It asked devotees to avoid having common prayer mats, asking them to bring their own mats or a piece of cloth at the place of worship. The touching of statues, idols and holy books was also prohibited.

Punjab has recorded 2,719 cases of the coronavirus, including 55 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the Union Health Ministry’s figures. Meanwhile, India’s total coronavirus tally rose to 2.76 lakh on Wednesday morning after 9,985 cases were reported in 24 hours. The toll increased to 7,745 after 274 deaths were reported in a day.

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