Updated: December 27, 2021 2:38:24 pm
In view of a surge in Covid-19 cases in the country and the emergence of Omicron, the new variant of coronavirus, the Ministry of Home Affairs has asked all states and union territories to impose “need-based” restrictions on public movement during the festive season and implement directions issued by the health ministry to contain the pandemic.
The home ministry has also issued statutory orders under the Disaster Management Act for the implementation of directions issued by the health ministry.
“The country has witnessed an overall decline in active cases. However, the new variant, Omicron …is reported to be at least 3 times more transmissible than the Delta VoC (variant of concern), and is posing a new challenge for the Covid containment measures. In the countries with Omicron-driven surge, the growth trajectory of cases has been very steep. In our country, 578 Omicron cases have already been reported in 19 states/UTs,” Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote in a letter sent to chief secretaries of all states.
The letter said that the health ministry had on December 21 issued an advisory detailing a normative framework for containment of Covid-19 and with the emergence of Omicron, there is a need for “greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making, and strict and prompt containment actions at the local and district levels”.
“State governments should ensure that the health systems in the states are strengthened to meet any challenge posed by the new variant. Further, the state governments/UT administrations should ensure that oxygen supply equipment are installed and are fully functional and the buffer stock of essential drugs should also be maintained,” the letter said.
The letter said Omicron cases have been detected in 116 countries and a surge has been reported in places such as the US, the UK, Europe (France, Italy, Spain), Russia, South Africa, Vietnam, Australia, etc.
“I would like to reiterate that all the states/UTs must observe all precautions, and not let the guard down. Local/district administration, based on the normative framework and assessment of the situation, should promptly take appropriate containment measures. States may consider imposing need-based, local curbs/restrictions, to control the crowd during the festive season,” Bhalla wrote in the letter.
The letter further stressed on continued focus on the five-fold strategy of test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate Behaviour.
“The state enforcement machinery should strictly enforce the norms of Covid-appropriate behaviour, i.e., wearing of face masks and maintaining safe social distancing in all public areas/ gatherings,” it said.
The letter also asked states to discourage any misinformation concerning Omicron to avoid anxiety among the public. “All states and UTs should proactively and regularly hold media briefings at the highest level to disseminate the right information to them. States/UTs should also educate them about various preventive measures undertaken by them and also advise them to strictly follow Covid- appropriate behaviour,” the letter said.