Mumbai: As Maharashtra sees a fresh surge in Covid cases, most major cities in the state are being forced to deal with a new category of super-spreaders — weddings.
To contain the spread of Covid-19 at weddings, civic bodies, district administrations and police authorities across the state have framed their own rules — from suspending all weddings for a certain period, to demanding wedding videos from the newly-wed couples, to even storming wedding venues and conducting Covid tests.
In Nagpur, Manish Soni, public relations officer in the city’s municipal corporation, told ThePrint, “There were a large number of weddings taking place where protocol such as wearing masks and capping the number of guests was not being strictly followed. So, our municipal commissioner instructed us to impose fines on all wedding halls as well as the families of couples violating rules. Our Nuisance Detection Squad was visiting wedding venues and keeping a tab.”
He added, “For now, we have suspended all weddings between 25 February and 7 March to contain the number of cases.”
The fines being imposed in Nagpur for breaching the cap on the guest list are quite hefty. Violators are being charged penalties ranging from Rs 15,000 to Re 50,000. Marriage halls have to submit their schedule of bookings to the civic body, which may even file an FIR in case of repeated violations.
At Savargaon village in the Narkhed taluka of the district, public health officials visited a marriage hall on 27 February while a wedding was in progress and conducted 26 rapid antigen tests on the guests, bride, groom, as well as the priest and cook.
The Nagpur district has emerged as one of the main Covid hotspots in Maharashtra in what is being feared as a second wave.
Maharashtra has so far recorded 21,69,330 Covid cases, of which 79,093 are active. Pune has the most number of active cases at 15,872, followed by Nagpur at 9,926 and Thane at 8,366.
Counselling of families before wedding
The Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) has taken to getting contact numbers of the families of the bride and groom from marriage halls and counselling them before their big day.
“We have asked all marriage halls in Thane to share their booking schedules and contacts of the families organising the weddings. A municipal employee calls these families in advance and counsels them about the precautionary measures that they need to take,” said Sandeep Malvi, spokesperson of the Thane civic body.
“We appeal to them to follow guidelines strictly and not compel us to act and spoil their happy occasion,” he said.
“This has made a huge difference. We also inform them that our officials will be visiting for an inspection while the wedding is underway. Most of the times because of our call in advance, the families take extra care to follow rules,” Malvi added.
The Thane police have also requested couples to submit video clips of their wedding.
Single-window clearance for weddings, FIRs for violations
The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has booked three marriage halls so far for violating guidelines under sections related unlawfully or negligently performing an act that can spread infection of any disease dangerous to life, and disobeying an order promulgated by a public servant.
At all three halls, people were not wearing face masks, there was no social distancing and there were about 200-300 people attending weddings, even as the civic body has directed that the number of guests be limited to 50, said a BMC official who didn’t wish to be named.
In Nashik, the city police has made prior police permission necessary for weddings just like for large public gatherings such as protests and rallies, and has opened a single-window system for the same, a statement by the Nashik City Police said.