Union Home Ministry issued an Order containing Guidelines for effective control of COVID-19. It will be effective from the 1st of April and remain in force up to the 30th of April. The main focus of the Guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains achieved in containing the spread of COVID-19, which was visible in the sustained decline in the number of active cases, continuously for about five months.
Keeping in view a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, which is being witnessed in some parts of the country, the guidelines mandate the State and Union Territories Governments to strictly enforce the Test- Track-Treat protocol and ensure observance of COVID appropriate behaviour by everyone and to scale up the vaccination drive to cover all the target groups.
It is also emphasised that in order to ensure that the resumption of activities is successful and to fully overcome the pandemic, there is a need to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, and strictly observe the guidelines and Standard Operating Procedures issued by the Home Ministry, Health Ministry, other Ministries, Departments of the Central Government and State Governments.
With regard to Test- Track-Treat protocol, the Home Ministry said that States and UTs, where the proportion of RT-PCR tests is less, should rapidly increase it, to reach the prescribed level of 70 per cent or more. The new positive cases, detected as a result of intensive testing, need to be isolated and quarantined at the earliest and provided timely treatment.
Further, as per the protocol, their contacts have to be traced at the earliest, and similarly isolated and quarantined. The Ministry said, based on the positive cases and tracking of their contacts, Containment Zones shall be carefully demarcated by the district authorities, at the micro-level while taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by the Health Ministry in this regard.
Within the demarcated Containment Zones, the containment measures will be followed, which include strict perimeter control, intensive house-to-house surveillance and contact tracing. The local district, police and municipal authorities will be responsible to ensure that the prescribed Containment measures are strictly followed and State Governments will ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard.
As per the guidelines, State and UT Governments will take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour in workplaces and in public, especially in crowded places. It said, for strict enforcement of wearing face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, States and UTs may consider administrative actions, including the imposition of appropriate fines.
States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, at district and sub-district and city/ or ward level, with a view to containing the spread of COVID-19. The guidelines 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 or e-permit will be required for such movements.
It said, all activities have been permitted outside Containment Zones and SOPs have been prescribed for various activities including movement by passenger trains, air travel, metro trains, schools; shopping malls and yoga centres. The SOPs, as updated from time to time will be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned. With regard to vaccination, the Government of India has launched the world’s largest vaccination drive against COVID-19.
The Home Ministry said that while the vaccination drive is proceeding smoothly, the pace is uneven across different States and UTs and the slow pace of vaccination in some States is a matter of concern. It said vaccination against COVID-19, in the present scenario, is critical to breaking the chain of transmission. The Ministry said, all State and UT Governments should rapidly step up the pace of vaccination, to cover all priority groups in an expeditious manner.