Night curfews allowed, lockdown needs Centre’s nod in new Covid protocol
Due to the rise in the number of Covid-19 cases in various states, the Centre on Wednesday allowed states and union territories to impose local restrictions, such as night curfew, based on their assessment of the situation. However, they cannot impose any local lockdown outside the containment zones without prior consultation with the Centre, according to an order issued by the ministry of home affairs on Wednesday.
The MHA also said that state governments can consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures in cities where the weekly case positivity rate is more than 10 percent so that the number of employees attending offices at the same time can be reduced.
The new guidelines – termed ‘Guidelines for Surveillance, Containment and Caution’- will remain in force from December 1 to December 31. They have been issued a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a meeting with the chief ministers of several states during which the severity of the third wave of infection was flagged by several leaders present.
The order said that “the main focus of the latest guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains that have been achieved against the spread of Covid-19 which is visible in the steady decline in the number of active cases in the country”.
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“Further, keeping in view the recent spike in new cases in few states/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, focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/SOPs (standard operating procedures) issued by MHA and ministry of health and family welfare,” the order said.
It said that 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 such as night curfew. However, state/UTs shall not impose any local lockdown (State/ District/ sub-division/City level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the central Government,” it said.
The MHA also gave freedom to the state governments to take administrative action against people not following the basic Covid safety measures. It said, “State/UT governments shall take all necessary measures to promote Covid-19 appropriate behavior and to ensure strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.”
In order to enforce the core requirement of wearing 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”, the MHA said.
For observance of social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazars and public transport, it said that the health ministry will issue a SOP soon.
The ministry said that 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. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movements.
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