In an attempt by the Centre to curb the spread of Covid-19 throughout the country, the Ministry of Home Affair (MHA) has issued a set of new guidelines which will come into force from December 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020.
In a press release, the MHA said, “The main focus of the guidelines is 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.”
The MHA added that keeping in view of the recent increase in cases in some states and Union Territories during the festival season and the advent of the winter season, it is important to be vigilant and strictly adhere to the guidelines.
In order to contain the spread of the virus, the MHA has said that states and UTs can impose local restrictions depending on their evaluation of the Covid-19 situation. Police, municipal authorities and local districts are responsible to make sure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed.
The new guidelines issued by the MHA:
Surveillance and Containment: The MHA has said that States/ UTs must make sure the careful demarcation of containment zones by the district authorities, at the micro level, taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW). The list of containment zones will be notified on the websites by the respective district collectors and by the states/ UTs. The MoHFW will be also sharing this list.
Within the demarcated zones, containment measures prescribed by MoHFW, must be carefully adhered to. Only essential activities are allowed in the containment zones. Strict perimeter control must be ensured so that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones unless there is a medical emergency and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services. Surveillance teams must do intensive house-to-house surveillance and testing must be carried out as per prescribed protocol.
Contact listing must be carried out in respect to those who have tested positive for the virus along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up of contacts for 14 days. Quick isolations of Covid-19 patients must be ensured in treatment facilities or homes which are subjected to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines. The surveillance of ILI/SARI cases must be carried out in outreach mobile units, health facilities or via fever clinics in buffer zones and awareness must be created on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.
Covid-appropriate behaviour: The MHA has asked governments of states and UTs to take all measures necessary in order to publicise Covid-19 appropriate behaviour. States/UTS have been told to strictly enforce masks, hand sanitizing and adhere to social distancing norms. States and UTs have been told to impose appropriate fines and penalties if people are caught not wearing masks in public or at workspaces. The MoHFW will be issuing a standard of procedure to states and UTs to enforce social distancing in crowded places and public transports. The MHA has added that in order to enforce Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, that the National Directives for Covid-19 Management must be continued to be followed nationwide.
Strict adherence to the prescribed standard of procedures (SOPs): The MHA have permitted all activities outside containment zones with the exceptions of the certain activities which are allowed with certain restrictions such as passengers travelling on International routes as permitted by the MHA, cinema halls theatre with upto 50% capacity, swimming pools opened only for athletes who are training, exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes, and religious, social, entertainment, educational, cultural, sports gatherings with a maximum limit of 50% of the hall capacity.
“However, based on their assessment of the situation, State/ UT governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less, in closed spaces,” the MHA said.
The MHA has said that the guidelines encloses a list of 19 SOPs that have been issued from time to time. Authorities concerned must strictly enforce these SOPs.
Local restrictions: The MHA has said that states and UTs may impose local restricts based on their assessment of the situation with a view to contain the spread of Covid-19 such as night curfews. However, states and UTs shall not impose any local level lockdown without the consultation of the Centre.
The states and UTs must enforce social distancing in offices. Cities, where the weekly positivity rate in more than 10%, the governments there must consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures to reduce many employees attending office at the same time.
Meanwhile, the MHA made it clear that there shall be no restrictions on inter-state and intra-state movement of goods and people including those for cross land border trade under treaties with neighbouring countries. No separate permission, approval, e-permit is required for such movements.
The MHA has asked citizens over the age of 65-years, persons with comorbidities, pregnant women, and children under the age of 10 are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purpose. The MHA has also encouraged the public to continue using the Aarogya Setu mobile app.