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  • Raghav Sand

MHA Issues Fresh Guidelines for Covid-19 Containment

Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) issued an order today with Guidelines for Surveillance, Containment and Caution, which will be effective from December 1, 2020 and shall remain in force up to December 31, 2020. States and Union Territories (UT) are mandated to strictly enforce containment measures and Standard Operating Procedures (SOP).

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 some regions the cases are being reported in high numbers after the Dussehra and Diwali festivities. Keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in few States and UTs, and onset of winter, there is a need to maintain caution. In aggregate, India has conducted 13.5 crore (135 million) Covid-19 tests till November 25, 2020.

The onus of enforcing the guidelines shall be on local district, police and municipal authorities. States and UTs may impose local restrictions over and above the prescribed guidelines as per the situation.

Surveillance and Containment

States and UTs have to ensure careful demarcation of containment zones by the district authorities, at the micro level, taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MoHFW) in this regard. The list of containment zones have to be notified on the websites by the respective District Collectors and by the State / UTs. This list shall also be shared with MoHFW.

Within the demarcated containment zones, containment measures, as prescribed by MoHFW, shall be meticulously followed. 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. Listing of contacts shall be carried out in respect of all persons found positive, along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up of contacts for 14 days (80 percent of contacts to be traced in 72 hours). Quick isolation of COVID-19 patients has to be ensured in treatment facilities / home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines).

COVID-Appropriate Behaviour

State and 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. In order to enforce the core requirement of wearing of face masks, 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, MoHFW shall issue a SOP, which shall be strictly enforced by States and UTs.

Strict Adherence to the Prescribed SOPs

All activities have been permitted outside containment zones, except for the following, which have been permitted with certain restrictions:

  1. International air travel of passengers, as permitted by MHA.

  2. Cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 percent capacity.

  3. Swimming pools, only for training of sports persons.

  4. Exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.

  5. Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, and religious gatherings, with up to a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces. If the above-mentioned gatherings are held in open space then the size of the gathering shall proportionate to the size of the ground / space.

  6. However, based on their assessment of the situation, State and UT Governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less, in closed spaces.

Local Restrictions

States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19 such as night curfew. States and UTs also need to enforce social distancing in offices in cities, where the weekly case positivity rate is more than 10 percent.

No Restriction on Inter-State and Intra-State Movement

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.

Protection for Vulnerable Persons

Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

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