Coronavirus | States told to consult Centre to impose lockdowns outside containment zones

A health worker takes a nasal swab sample of a man to test for COVID-19 at a facility in Ahmedabad on November 25, 2020.   | Photo Credit: AP

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued fresh guidelines for “surveillance, containment and caution” in view of the surge in COVID-19 cases due to the ongoing festival season and onset of winter. The MHA has stressed that States should ensure 80% contacts of all persons found COVID-19 positive should be traced in 72 hours and their “tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up” for the next 14 days should be done strictly.

The order issued on Wednesday is called ‘Guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution’, which will be effective from 1-31 December. The previous order issued on October 27 applicable in the month of November was called ‘Guidelines for reopening’. Before that, the orders issued under the Disaster Management Act, 2005 were called ‘Unlock guidelines’.

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The MHA said that States and Union Territories (UTs), based on their assessment of the situation, may “impose local restrictions” such as “night curfew” with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19. “However, State/ UT Governments shall not impose any local lockdown (State/ District/ sub-division/City level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central Government,” MHA order said.

The MHA said that States need to enforce social distancing in offices. “In cities, where the weekly Case positivity rate is in more than 10%, States and UTs concerned shall consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures, with a view to reduce the number of employees attending office at the same time, thereby ensuring social distancing,” the order said.

More than 92 lakh COVID-19 cases and 1.3 lakh deaths have been reported in the country so far.

The MHA said the main focus of the guidelines was to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of COVID-19, which is visible in the steady decline in number of active cases in the country. “Further, keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in few States/ UTs, ongoing festival season and onset of winter, it is emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines,” it said.

It reiterated that States should ensure careful demarcation of containment zones by the district authorities, at the micro level, taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by the Union Health Ministry in this regard. The list of containment zones will be notified online by District Collectors.

“Only essential activities shall be allowed in the containment zones. There shall be strict perimeter control to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services. There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by surveillance teams formed for the purpose. Testing shall be carried out as per prescribed protocol,” the order said.

It asked for quick isolation of COVID-19 patients and that surveillance for “ILI/ SARI cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones”.

“Awareness shall be created in communities on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour. Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed Containment measures are strictly followed and State/ UT Governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard,” it said.

The MHA said that States and UTs may consider administrative actions, including imposition of appropriate fines, on persons not wearing face masks in public and work spaces.

“For observance of social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transport, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) will issue a SOP, which shall be strictly enforced by States and UTs,” it said.

International air travel of passengers continues to remain barred except as permitted by MHA.

“Cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 % capacity. Swimming pools, only for training of sports persons. Exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes. Social/ religious/ sports/ entertainment/ educational/ cultural/ religious gatherings, with upto a maximum of 50% of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground/ space in view, in open spaces,” the order said. However, based on their assessment of the situation, State governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less, in closed spaces.

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods, including those for cross land-border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit would be required for such movements.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2021 5:26:13 PM |

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