Covid2019 task force's Dr Shashank Joshi guides TV producers on hygiene practices while shooting

It is mandatory for hair and make up artists to use PPE kits in vanity vans.

MUMBAI: Even though TV serials have resumed production, the fear of catching the virus is still there. To ensure producers are informed of hygiene practices to be followed, Dr Shashank Joshi, member of the Covid2019 task force of Maharashtra government, had a virtual meeting with the members of Indian Film and Television Producers Council (IFTPC) and several other television producers.

Members who attended the meeting included IFTPC chairman TV wing JD Majethia, Maraṭhi film and TV producer and IFTPC member Nitin Vaidya, Neela Tele Films founder Asit Kumarr Modi, Edit II Productions co-founder Binaifer Kohli, Director's Kut Productions founder Rajan Shahi, IFTPC vice president and Shakuntalam Telefilms founder Shyamashis Bhattacharya and others.

Joshi, while addressing the members, discussed all the guidelines and directions that can be followed on the production set. He said that SarsCoV2 is unpredictable in nature and it is airborne. It stays for a longer time on the top surface.

According to him it is important for all the workers, cast and technical crew to wear masks and goggles along with the face shield. Asymptomatic people are the ones who carry the virus and become Covid2019 carriers on the set. He suggested to strictly adhere to all the guidelines that  also includes temperature check, disinfection, fumigation. He also informed that there are instances where the risk of Covid2019 transmission is higher such as crowded places, overly ventilated places and closed environment. He also pointed out that apart from sanitisation, washing hands with normal soap will solve the purpose.

Another important thing is to maintain social distancing. He suggested avoiding shared meals or drinking beverages together because the person is required to remove the mask and this is where the risk of contracting the virus is high. Unmasking can cause issues and the person needs to be extra cautious while going to the toilet. Cleaning on a regular interval is very important.  A simple disinfectant like bleaching powder can also do the work. Also, apart from having an air-conditioned set, it is important to have exhaust fans.
On television producer Bobby Arora’s question about what protocols can be followed on the production set if someone is tested positive, Joshi said, “In most instances, drivers, house help and maids are Covid2019 carriers. If the person is asymptomatic, then you should track other workers who were in close contact with that person. Seven-day quarantine should take place because the symptoms stop showing after the ninth day. So, the employee can join the set on the tenth day. If the person is still Covid2019 positive, then it takes 17 days to recover," he said.

Under these circumstances, producers should disinfect the set immediately and after eight hours they can start the operations or resume after an entire day also.

While speaking about the correlation between air conditioners and Covid2019, Joshi pointed out that it is essential to have exhaust fans on set to avoid closed air circulation. It would be ideal to clean air conditioners every now and then. One can also use HEPA filters in air conditioners.

On Asit Kumarr Modi’s question of removing masks and gloves while filming an intimate scene, Joshi said, “Occupational risk will have to be taken by artists. There is no other option.  Close and intimate scenes will involve risk. But the maximum risk is from vanity vans. In Hollywood, most of the cases on film and television sets happened due to vanity vans. It is advisable for makeup artists and hairdressers to wear PPE kits while entering the vanity van.”

He also made it clear that after removing the PPE kit it cannot be worn again. In this case, he advised the producers to provide separate sets of clothes that can be used on the set. He also highlighted that UV-ray sterilisation is not fool-proof but it will do the job of surface cleaning.

Majethia also raised a question about what action should be taken if the lead pair gets infected, because this will directly affect the show. Joshi explained, "If a person is in contact with the other person for more than four minutes and they are standing at a distance of less than half feet, it is close contact. What we did with police officers, sanitisation workers and doctors is that we asked them to consume hydroxy- chloroquine pills once a week. However, this pill is not advisable for people above the age of 50 and those with hypertension and heart ailments.”

All the producers had a major concern of ensuring safe travel, as most of the cast and crew use auto rickshaws or taxis for travelling.

To this Joshi said, “Maintaining hygiene is of utmost importance. It is fine to use other vehicles for commuting, but when they come on the set let them take a bath and change clothes. The toilets should be disinfected. It is not viable to always use PPE kits all the time, so keep spare clothes. Keep the surface and air clean.”

A lot of people are confused about what kind of face masks work best. According to Joshi three ply surgical masks, N95 masks and reusable masks can be used. But it is advisable to use N95 masks. However, it is disposable. While working the artists should use two masks on the set. He suggested negotiating with vendors or contacting hospital suppliers for affordable pricing.

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