MHA rejects lockdown possibilities, issues 19 SOPs
New Delhi: In the wake of ongoing Covid-19 cases, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued a 19-point Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) giving nod to States and UTs to impose local restrictions if necessary. The SOPs, part of a month-long guidelines issued by the MHA, will be effective from December 1 and will remain in force up to December 31.
States and Union Territories (UTs) have been allowed to impose night curfew but “shall not be allowed to impose any local lockdown outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Centre”. Staggered office timings and other suitable measures shall be implemented in the cities with the positivity rate in 10 per cent so as to ensure social distancing.
The MHA has also not restricted any inter-State or intra-State movement. People above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women and children below the age of 10 years have been adivsed to stay home while advising the general public to use Aarogya Setu mobile application.
The district authorities have been asked to carefully demarcate containment zones considering prescribed MoHFW guidelines. The authorities have also been asked to notify the list of containment zones on the website of respective district collectors.
While only essential activities shall be allowed in the containment zones, strict perimeter control will be there to ensure that there is no movement of people, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential 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 per cent of contacts to be traced in 72 hours). Quick isolation of Covid-19 patients shall be ensured in treatment facilities or home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines).
Clinical interventions, as prescribed, shall be administered and surveillance for Influenza-Like Illness or Severe Acute Respiratory Infection cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.
Awareness shall be created in communities on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed and State or UT governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard. It is directed to State and UT governments to 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 will issue a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), which shall be strictly enforced by States and UTs.
All activities have been permitted outside Containment Zones, except for some which have been permitted with certain restrictions– international air travel of passengers, as permitted by MHA; cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 per cent capacity; swimming pools, only for training of sports persons; exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes; social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings, with up to a maximum of 50 per cent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces, keeping in view the size of the ground in open spaces.
However, the MHA said, based on their assessment of the situation, State and UT governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less, in closed spaces. The main focus of the guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of the deadly disease, which is visible in the steady decline in number of active cases in the country.
“Keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in a few States and UTs, ongoing festival season and onset of winter, it is emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, focused on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines or SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW),” it said.
Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed. “States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, with a view to contain the spread of Covid-19,” the Ministry said.
The move comes after India on Wednesday added 44,376 Covid cases, pushing its total tally to 92,22,216. It is the 18th straight day when India reported less than 50,000 cases in a day. But there are many States including Delhi, Mumbai and West Bengal where the number of Covid cases has been increasing drastically, claiming many lives regularly.