The Yogi Adityanath government has finally allowed Durga Puja celebrations with established safety protocols under the pandemic.
Durga Puja pandals can now hold religious or cultural events in the open, provided all guidelines for Covid containment, like social distancing and the wearing of masks is followed.
A restriction on the number of people has also been imposed on events taking place in an enclosed space, where only 50 per cent of the hall's capacity and up to a maximum of 200 people, will be allowed to attend.
The new guidelines will come into force from October 15 and Navratri starts from October 17.
The government decision has unleashed a wave of joy among the Durga Puja committees who have already plunged into making preparations for the festival.
"We spent the entire Thursday night, drawing up plans for the Durga Puja celebrations because we have less than a fortnight to go. We are thankful to the Chief Minister for allowing us to hold the Durga Puja celebrations," said Anand Banerjee of a Durga Puja committee in Jankipuram area.
It may be recalled that the Samajwadi Party and the Congress had urged the Chief Minister to allow Durga Puja pandals to be held in the state.
Senior Samajwadi Party leader and leader of opposition in the state Assembly, Ram Govind Chaudhary, had said the ban on Durga Puja pandals was a "direct attack on the people's fundamental right to freedom of religion."
Congress leader Jitin Prasada had said that the BJP cannot be selective when it comes to freedom of religion and they cannot use the pandemic as an excuse to differentiate between people. "If Ram Lila can be allowed with a restricted audience, why not Durga Puja?" he asked.
Meanwhile, cinema halls and multiplexes will also be allowed to reopen from October 15 with 50 per cent capacity.
In its list of regulations under the new unlock phase, picked up entirely from the Centre's guidelines, Uttar Pradesh government said on Thursday night that all schools and coaching centres can start holding classes in a phased manner from October 15.
However, online teaching will not only be encouraged, but also prioritised. Even if classes are held physically, a student who wants to attend it virtually will be allowed to do so. In fact, no child can be forced to attend classes physically without the consent of the parents. The schools, which decide to hold classes, will have to follow the SOP as finalised by the Education Department.
The universities and institutes of higher education funded by the government will open based on a decision taken by the Department of Higher Education in consultation with the Home Ministry. The private universities and institutes can allow the Ph.D and post-graduate students who require laboratories to visit the campus.