All non-emergency leaves of paramilitary personnel should be "cancelled" in order to minimise the risk of contracting coronavirus during travel and they should get into "battle mode" to combat the pandemic by ensuring personal and public safety, according to a government order.
A four-page directive was issued by the medical wing of the Union home ministry on Tuesday stating that the next three weeks are crucial in checking the spread of the virus and lack of caution can affect the forces, around 10 lakh personnel-strong, deployed for ensuring the country's internal security and border protection.
The Central Armed Police Forces (CAPFs) or the paramilitary forces include the Central Reserve Police Force (CRPF), Border Security Force (BSF), Central Industrial Security Force (CISF), Indo-Tibetan Border Police (ITBP) and Sashatra Seema Bal (SSB) apart from the counter-terrorist force National Security Guard (NSG) and the Assam Rifles.
"All non-emergency leave of any kind may be cancelled forthwith. This will cut down travel risk as well," the guidelines, accessed by PTI, said. "Avoid international or domestic air, bus or train travel for at least a month except when it is essentially required. Long distance travel is biggest cause for spread (of the virus)," it said.
It has also asked these forces to postpone all meetings and regular departmental reviews related to promotions, medical review, sports tournaments and recruitments.
"There is a need to get into battle mode and plan ahead not only in theory but through practical demonstration and drills," the guidelines on occupational safety and health of the forces' personnel said.
Apart from reiterating the medically-certified best practices of avoiding hand shakes and 'social distancing', heads of these forces have also been asked to keep "extra emergency budget" for purchase of sanitation items and disinfectants. It has also asked the headquarters of these forces to make aware their field offices, troops and their families about the importance of self-quarantine.
"For those in quarantine, enable contact with outside world through mobile, laptop, television and newspapers. Chargers and adaptors with sufficient charging points are a must. Sufficient items of clothing, medicines, food and groceries should be ensured," it said.
Personnel and their families have been asked to not go to public places that witness large gatherings like malls, gyms and swimming pools. The guidelines specifically seek protection for healthcare staff as they are at "maximum risk."
If and when health and medical service officials fall sick, the guidelines stated, the healthcare system is likely to become over-burdened. "They (health workers) are prone to be anxious, worried, irritable and even angry and may even be attacked by the public when resources are limited and may suffer fatal injuries," it said.
The guidelines state that the personnel should be cautioned against forwarding "unscientific and unsubstantiated messages" on social media platforms. "Correct such misleading messages with right information from credible sources. It helps to check panic and fear," it said.