Medical experts believe elderly people are at greater risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
Temples in Maharashtra - closed since March due to the coronavirus pandemic - will re-open "soon", Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said Sunday, adding that SOPs to guard against overcrowding and minimise transmission of the COVID-19 virus would be released after Diwali. He also said schools - also closed since March - would re-open for Classes 9 to 12 after Diwali as well.
Mr Thackeray, who has been urged to sanction the re-opening of places of worship in the state, said he had held out because of the risk to senior citizens who visit them. Medical experts believe elderly people (those above 60) are at greater risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus.
"When will temples open? They will open soon. After Diwali we will create SOPs for this. Elderly people visit temples and they are at risk (of contracting Covid). Therefore overcrowding needs to be avoided... be it temples, masjids or any other place," Mr Thackeray said.
The Chief Minister said that although the SOPs would be released later, the wearing of face maks while visiting places of worship in the state would be compulsory. He laid particular stress on that and warned people that those found without face masks would be fined.
"People are criticising me but I'm ready to face that. I'm cautious for senior citizens. If one Covid-positive person is without a mask, he can infect 400 others... these are doctor's figures," he said.
The re-opening of temples in the state had triggered an acerbic row between Mr Thackeray and Governor BS Koshyari early last month; the Governor, in a sarcasm-dense letter, asked the Chief Minister if he had "turned secular".
The Chief Minister retorted that his Hindutva did not require a certificate of authenticity and that the government would take a decision on this matter after "careful consideration". Mr Thackeray also reminded the Governor of the ideal of secularism and his oath to the Indian Constitution.