The Centre on Monday extended the tenure of Covid-19 containment guidelines to January 31, 2021, in view of the “surge in cases globally, and emergence of a new variant of the virus” in the UK.
In view of rising Covid-19 cases, the government had, on November 25, issued guidelines for containment of the virus in which several relaxations given earlier were rescinded.
The November guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had allowed states to clamp down night curfews, put any number of “local restrictions”, keep gatherings at social events to less than 100, punish people for not wearing masks, and issue orders for local lockdowns with the Centre’s approval.
In Monday’s order, the ministry said it is extending the “Guidelines for Surveillance” to January 31, 2021. “While there has been a continuous decline in active and new Covid-19 cases, there is need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in cases globally, and emergence of a new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom,” the MHA said in a statement.
The new order has said that as earlier, containment zones will continue to be demarcated carefully even as prescribed containment measures, including perimeter control, will be strictly followed within these zones. It has also asked states to ensure Covid-appropriate behaviour is promoted and strictly enforced; and the standard operating procedures prescribed regarding various permitted activities followed.
“Therefore, the focused approach on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, as envisaged in the Guidelines issued on 25.11.2020; need to be enforced strictly by States and UTs,” the MHA stated.
“Strict vigil is also needed to be maintained to prevent any fresh surge in cases in wake of upcoming New Year celebrations and ongoing winter season which are favourable for spread of the virus. In this regard, appropriate measures may be taken by the State/UT Governments,” Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has said in a letter written to all states.
He also asked states to ensure support of all authorities concerned in roll-out of vaccine. “The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) has recommended prioritization of this vaccine during the initial phases to Health Care Workers, Front Line Workers, Persons aged 50 years and above and those below 50 years of age with comorbidities,” Bhalla wrote. “States/UTs may instruct the concerned authorities for their active support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in identification, preparation of database, vaccine delivery, storage, security, shipment and vaccination of beneficiaries.”
It also reminded states of the December 18 Supreme Court order, in which states were asked to strictly enforce Covid containment guidelines and take action against violators. “I would like to re-emphasize that essence behind the graded reopening and progressive resumption of activities is to move ahead,” Bhalla stated. “However, there is a concomitant need to exercise due care. States/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. However, 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.”
Before the November 25 guidelines reimposed few restrictions, the Centre had removed nationwide night curfew through its guidelines issued on July 29. The restrictions had been in place since May.
Through five Unlock guidelines the Centre had also removed most of the restrictions on public movement and activity, barring international travel by air and use of swimming pools for recreational activity. Even schools had been reopened and social/political/religious gatherings allowed up to a ceiling of 200 persons in a closed space.