All Archaeological Survey of India protected monuments will be reopened for the public from July 6 with entry only through e-tickets, a cap on the number of visitors and mandatory wearing of masks, the culture ministry said on Thursday.
Earlier in June, the ministry had reopened 820 monuments out of the over 3,000 ASI-maintained monuments where religious events take place.
As many as 3,691 Centrally-protected monuments and archaeological sites maintained by the ASI were shut from March 17 in view of the coronavirus crisis.
The minister said all coronavirus-related protocols issued by the Union health ministry would be followed by the monument authorities.
In a tweet, Culture Minister Prahlad Patel said, “I have taken a decision along with the ministry of culture and the ASI to open all monuments from July 6.”
This, however, will be done with the compliance of the state and district administration.
The culture ministry issued a set of protocols, saying only those monuments which are in non-containment zones will be reopened.
Entry tickets shall be issued by e-mode and only e-payments will be acceptable at the monument parking and cafeteria.
“There will be a cap on the number of visitors in select monuments… The visitors shall follow social distancing. The use of face cover/mask is mandatory. Entrance to have mandatory hand hygiene and thermal scanning provisions. Only asymptomatic persons are allowed. There shall be designated routes for entry & exit and movement within the monument,” according to the standard operating procedure issued by the ministry.
The visiting hours have been divided into two slots with visitors at most monuments being capped at 1,000 per slot depending upon the footfall they receive, the SOP said.
While the visitors at Taj Mahal in Agra have been capped at 2500 per slot, at Delhi’s Qutub Minar and Red Fort, a maximum of 1500 visitors will be allowed per slot.
At the Agra Fort in Agra and Sun Temple in Bhubneshwar, visitors have been capped at 1,200-1,300 per slot.
At the entrance of every monument/site, all visitors shall share their phone numbers with the person designated for the purpose by the ASI to help in contact tracing if and when required.
The ASI can restrict access to vulnerable and interior parts of any monument while visitors shall be asked to stick to the time limits inside the monument, as far as possible, the ministry said.
No group photography and food or eatables shall be allowed inside the premises, it said.
“Cleaning and sanitisation of monuments and museums including toilet blocks, benches and frequently used surfaces shall be done at regular intervals,” it said.
According to sources, the culture ministry will also open it museums from July 6.