Barring Gurgaon and Faridabad, the districts worst-hit by coronavirus, religious places and shopping malls in Haryana reopened after two and a half months on Monday but there were fewer visitors than some had anticipated.
Outside containment zones, hotels and restaurants too reopened with preventive measures in place to contain the spread of the infection. People wore masks, faced thermal screening and were asked to scrub their hands with sanitiser or soap and water.
Restaurants in hotels are allowed to operate at only 50 per cent capacity to ensure social distancing. Buffet services are not allowed. In Sonipat’s Murthal, known for the dhabas and other eateries which dot a stretch on both sides of the Ambala-Delhi national highway, people were seen stopping by for the ‘parathas’.
In Ambala, hotels, malls and restaurants opened again but there were few customers. And not too many turned up at temples, gurdwaras, mosques and churches in the city.
The management of historical gurdwaras like Manji Sahib, Panjokhra Sahib and Badshahi Bagh had sanitised the premises and made arrangements to ensure social distancing.
Prominent Ambala temples including Ambika Devi Mandir, Hathi Khana Mandir, Kali Mata Mandir and Ram Bagh Mandir also opened early in the morning.
Going by the guidelines, the priests did not sprinkle holy water and devotees were barred from touching the idols.
The instructions allow only individual prayers at religious places. Ambala’s Jama Masjid and Lakhi Shah mosques, and the Church of North India also reopened.
The Ambala district administration had summoned a meeting of temple priests on Sunday to ensure that all guidelines issued by the Centre and state governments are followed. Pandit Kanhaiya Lal said he is happy that devotees are able to visit temples after a long time. The priests will ensure that all guidelines are followed, he added.
In Kurukshetra, local resident Jai Narain Sharma appreciated the move to reopen religious places. He said people find solace in prayer, particularly in difficult times like during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Ambala hotel owner Pawan Aggarwal said the industry faced huge losses during the coronavirus lockdown and it would take months before business is back on track.
Ambala Deputy Commissioner Ashok Kumar said the administration is keeping a close watch on religious places, malls and hotels to ensure strict compliance to the guidelines.
In Kurukshetra and Pehowa too, the number of devotees at temples was nowhere near what is usually seen there.
Haryana Sports Minister Sandeep Singh was among the first devotees at Gurdwara Chhevin Patshahi in Kurukshetra. He later visited Sarveshwar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva, at Brahma Sarovar and the Saraswati temple at Pehowa.
Ramesh Sachdeva, manager of the only mall at Kurukshetra, said they are taking all precautions, allowing customers to enter only with their masks on and after hand sanitisation.
Mata Mansa Devi temple in Panchkula near Chandigarh will reopen only on Tuesday. Devotees will have to make register online for the ‘darshan’, permitted between 6 am and 8.15 pm.
Following the go-ahead from the Centre on ”Unlock-1”, the Haryana government allowed the reopening of religious places and shopping malls in a regulated manner from June 8. But restrictions continue in Gurgaon and Faridabad, districts where a large number of people tested positive in the past 10 days.
The nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25 continues till June 30, but with major relaxations.