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Explained: What are Centre’s new guidelines to states for Omicron containment?

🔴 The Centre has asked the states for the imposition of night curfew, strict regulation of large gatherings, curtailing numbers in marriages and funerals, restricting numbers in offices, industries and public transport.

Written by Kaunain Sheriff M , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 23, 2021 7:53:30 am
Hospital staff continue with their routine work at the isolation ward prepared for Omicron variant Covid patients at Civil hospital, Asarwa. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan Tuesday issued specific guidelines to the states in the backdrop of “initial signs of surge” in cases of Covid-19 as well as increased detection of the Variant of Concern (VoC), Omicron, in different parts of the country. These recommendations relate to strategies for containment and restrictions in districts reporting high positivity rates, including the imposition of night curfew, strict regulation of large gatherings, curtailing numbers in marriages.

What are these guidelines?

First, the health ministry has said that if test positivity rate of 10% more is reported in the last one week, or, if the district reports bed occupancy of 40% or more on oxygen supported or ICU beds — district-level containment measures and restrictions may be put in place.

Can restrictions be imposed by districts, even if the districts report less than 10% positivity ?

Yes. The health ministry has said that based on the local situation and population characteristics such as density, and keeping in mind the higher transmissibility of Omicron — states can take containment measures and restrictions even before these thresholds are reached.

Why has the Centre told the states to implement strict restrictions at the district level where the case positivity is increasing?

The health ministry has specifically highlighted that based on current scientific evidence, the Omicron is at least three times more transmissible than the Delta variant. It has told the states that the decision-making at the district level must be very prompt and focussed.

“Besides, the Delta VOC is still present in different parts of the country. Hence, even greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making and strict and prompt containment action is required at the local and district level,” the health ministry has told the states.

What are the guidelines on containment measures?

It has asked the states for the imposition of night curfew, strict regulation of large gatherings, curtailing numbers in marriages and funerals, restricting numbers in offices, industries and public transport.

“In case of all new clusters of Covid positive cases, prompt notification of ‘Containment Zones’, ‘Buffer Zones’ should be done, strict perimeter control of Containment Zone as per extant guidelines must be ensured. All cluster samples must be sent to INSACOG Labs for Genome Sequencing without delay,” the health ministry wrote.

What are the other guidelines?

On testing and surveillance, it has asked the districts to do door-to-door case searches; testing of all SARI/ILI and vulnerable/co-morbid people; ensuring right proportion of RT- PCR tests in total tests being conducted daily; and contact tracing of all Covid-positive persons.

It also urged states to ensure stringent enforcement of home isolation. “This will be a very critical activity in the days to come specially to ensure that persons under home isolation do not spread the virus to others in view of its higher transmissibility,” the health ministry said.

On vaccination, the districts have been asked to ensure 100% coverage of left-out first and second dose eligible beneficiaries in an accelerated manner. “Special focus to be given to those districts where the first & second dose coverage is less than the national average. The door-to-door vaccination campaign needs to be strengthened,” the health ministry said.

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