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Covid-19 guidelines: Centre extends control measures till Jan 31, here’s what new rules say

MHA Covid-19 guidelines & rules: The Home ministry has asked states to be more vigilant owing to the upcoming New Year celebrations.

Written by Deeptiman Tiwary | New Delhi | Updated: December 28, 2020 9:03:52 pm
Covid 19 new guidelines, new unclock guidelines, MHA, coronavirusVisitors in masks at the Rock Garden in Chandigarh on December 27. (Express photo: Kamleshwar Singh)

MHA Covid-19 guidelines: The Centre on Monday extended the Covid containment guidelines it had issued earlier to January 31, 2021.

In view of rising Covid cases, the Centre had on November 25 issued fresh rules for Covid containment, where several relaxations given earlier had been withdrawn.

The November guidelines issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) had allowed states to impose night curfews, put any number of “local restrictions”, keep gatherings at social events to less than 100, punish people for not wearing masks and even issue orders for local lockdowns with the Centre’s approval.

In an order issued on Monday, the Ministry said it was extending the “Guidelines for Surveillance” to January 31, 2021.

“While there has been a continuous decline in the 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 (UK),” a statement issued by the MHA said.

The new MHA order has said that as earlier, containment zones will be demarcated carefully where perimeter control will be in place. It has also asked states to ensure that Covid-appropriate behaviour is promoted and strictly enforced; and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for permitted activities are followed scrupulously.

“Therefore, the focused approach on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW), as envisaged in the Guidelines issued on 25.11.2020; need to be enforced strictly by States and UTs, ” the order has said.

The MHA has also asked states to be more vigilant owing to New Year celebrations. “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 the 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 has also asked states to ensure support of all the authorities concerned in the roll-out of Covid 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. States/UTs may instruct the concerned authorities for their active support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in identification, preparation of database, vaccine delivery, storage, security, shipment and vaccination of beneficiaries,” Bhalla’s letter has said.

It has also reminded states of the December 18 Supreme Court order where 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. 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,” Bhalla has said.

Before the November 25 guidelines re-imposed some restrictions, the Centre had removed the nationwide night curfew it imposed on July 29. Through five unlock guidelines since May, the Centre had removed most of the restrictions on public movement and activity, barring international travel by air and use of swimming pools for recreation.

Even schools had been reopened and social/political/religious gatherings allowed upto a ceiling of 200 persons in a closed space.

The November guidelines later flagged offices as spaces for spread of coronavirus and asked states to stagger office timings.

“States and UTs also need to enforce social distancing in offices. In cities, where the weekly Case Positivity Rate is in more than 10 per cent, states and UTs concerned shall consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures, with a view to reduce the number of employees attending office at the same time, thereby ensuring social distancing,” the guidelines had said.

For containment zones, the guidelines had issued detailed instructions.

“There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance …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 shall be ensured in treatment facilities/ home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines). Clinical interventions, as prescribed, shall be administered. Surveillance for ILI/ SARI cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones,” the guidelines had said.

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