New Delhi: A kit containing a mask, a small bottle of hand sanitiser and a pair of gloves kept on all chairs which were neatly separated to maintain the prescribed distance — Independence Day celebrations this year typified the ‘new normal’ in times of COVID-19.

Known otherwise to witness bustling crowd across many age groups, the annual grand event at the historic Red Fort was scaled down this year in keeping with prescribed safety protocols to contain spread of the novel coronavirus that has wrecked havoc across the world.

At the main entrance, the limited number of guests invited for the event underwent thermal scanning by security personnel donning personal protective equipment (PPE) kit, while hands-free sanitiser dispenser have been kept near security gates.

Inside, chairs were placed in a careful matrix across all enclosures. Each seat had a sanitiser kit, a hand towel kept on the back rest along with the programme pamphlet. Social distancing norms were also in place on the rampart where the VVIPs were seated.

Every year, a sea of school children add youthful energy to the grand event, but amid the coronavirus scare, they were not present on the occasion this year.

“Today, our children are not here with us. The coronavirus pandemic has halted all of us,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi said in his address from the ramparts of the Red Fort.

Colourful carpets in enclosure and aisles contrast seating and walking areas, and posters bearing social distancing norms messages like ‘keep six ft distance’, ‘wear a mask’, dot the venue.

Guests, security staff, VIPs, all were sporting masks as prescribed under the safety norms. Some guests were even seen sporting designer masks to add to the uniqueness of the event that embraces the ‘new normal’ brought in by the coronavirus pandemic.

Delhi has been one of the worst-affected cities in the country as far as the spread of the virus is concerned. The total number of COVID-19 cases in the national capital has crossed 1.5 lakh, while 4,178 people have died due to the viral infection.