Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) has released a new set of COVID-19 guidelines for surveillance, containment and caution. Government departments and administrations in states and union territories have been ordered to strictly enforce COVID-19 containment measures, follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) while performing various activities, exercise caution, and to regulate crowds.
The new COVID-19 guidelines only allow essential activities in the various containment zones across the country. MHA wants the police, municipal authorities and local district authorities to ensure that containment measures are strictly followed.
The new guidelines have been issued a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met with chief ministers to discuss concerns over recent negligence of the common citizens of COVID-19 norms. The new guidelines will come into effect from December 1, 2020, and are expected to remain in force till December 31, 2020.
Guideline regarding lockdowns
State governments and union territory administrations have been given the authority to decide, based on their assessment, whether to impose local restrictions such as night curfews to curb the spread of the virus or not. States and union territories, however, are not allowed to impose local lockdowns outside containment zones without the consulting with the central government first.
Guidelines regarding restrictions in offices
States and union territories have been instructed to enforce social distancing in offices, according to the MHA guidelines. In cities with weekly case positivity rate above 10 per cent, the administration must consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures. The goal is to limit the number of employees present in offices at the same time.
Guidelines regarding activities permitted outside containment zones
Cinema halls will remain open with up to 50 per cent capacity outside containment zones, while swimming pools will remain open only for sportspersons. Exhibition halls will only open for business purposes.
Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings, are permitted but the number of people attending should not exceed 50 per cent of the venue's capacity. More than 200 persons are not allowed in closed spaces.
However, based on their assessment, state governments and union territories may reduce the number of people allowed in closed spaces to less than 100, according to the MHA guidelines.
MHA has not imposed any inter-state or intra-state travel restriction on the movement of people or goods. This includes cross-border trading with neighbouring countries. No separate permission will be needed for such movements, the MHA guidelines said.
Guidelines regarding COVID-19 surveillance
MHA has stated that a strict perimeter control must be established around containment zones in order to restrict unauthorised movement of people in or out of these zones. Exceptions include medical emergencies and movement for maintaining the supply of essential goods.
"Intensive house-to-house surveillance, COVID-19 testing must be carried out as per prescribed protocol. Listing of contacts must be carried out in respect of all persons found COVID-19 positive, along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow-up of contacts for 14 days. Around 80 per cent of contacts to be traced in 72 hours," the MHA said in a statement.
Quick isolation of COVID-19 patients shall be ensured in treatment facilities/ home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines), MHA further said. Clinical interventions, as prescribed, must be administered.
Guidelines regarding COVID-19 appropriate behaviour
"State/UT governments shall take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and to ensure strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing," MHA said.
States and union territories can take administrative action such as the imposition of an appropriate fine on persons for not wearing a mask in public.
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