Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has expressed concern over the slow pace of vaccination and has asked chief secretaries of all states to increase the speed of vaccination and cover all priority groups in an expeditious manner. He warned that the Covid-19 cases may increase further due to the upcoming festivals.
In a letter to the secretaries today, Bhalla said there is a general laxity in the observance of Covid-19 appropriate behaviour, like wearing masks, maintaining social distancing etc and wanted states and Union Territories to consider appropriate administrative actions including imposition of fine on defaulters. He also pointed out that the Health Ministry's guidelines on measures to be taken at containment zones are not being strictly followed. He said the latest Covid-19 guidelines issued today (to be effective from April 1) in the wake of fresh surge of Covid-19 cases will be effective till April 30.
The guideline permits states and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, to impose local restrictions, at district, sub-district and city or ward level, to contain the spread of COVID-19. It also calls for strict adherence to the standard operating procedures (SOPs) prescribed for every economic activity outside the containment zones. These include movement by passenger trains; air travel; metro trains; schools; higher educational institutions; hotels and restaurants; shopping malls, multiplexes and entertainment parks; yoga centres and gymnasiums; exhibitions, assemblies and congregations, etc.
The guideline however makes it clear that 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 will be required for such movements," it said.
According to the guidelines, states and UTs, where the proportion of RT-PCR tests is less, should rapidly increase it, to reach the prescribed level of 70 per cent or more. Similarly, new positive cases, detected as a result of intensive testing, need to be isolated/ quarantined at the earliest and provided timely treatment. It says that persons who have contacted Covid-19 patients should be traced at the earliest, and isolated and quarantined. "Within the demarcated Containment Zones, containment measures, as prescribed by the ministry of health shall be scrupulously followed, which include strict perimeter control, intensive house-to-house surveillance, contact tracing, surveillance for ILI/ SARI cases etc".
The guideline reiterates that 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.