No gatherings, online shopping: Centre's COVID-19 advisory during festive season
The central government on Saturday directed states to ensure that COVID-19 precautions are followed during the festive season. The government advisory recommended relying on online shopping, avoiding unnecessary travels, no mass gatherings, etc., as it threatened strict action for violations. It also directed states to ramp up testing, tracking, and treatment of COVID-19 cases, along with vaccinations.
Why does this story matter?
Experts fear that increased social gatherings during the festive season could cause a surge in COVID-19 cases. Although COVID-19 cases are declining, experts say a third wave may hit India with the emergence of a new variant. Meanwhile, there is growing suspicion that the Delta-plus variant (AY.4.2) may be worsening outbreaks in different parts of the world.
What does the advisory say?
Strictly adhere to limits on public gatherings, considering the availability of space to ensure physical distancing. Gatherings allowed with prior permission should be closely monitored. Penal action should be taken for violation of COVID-19 appropriate behavior. States should issue guidelines in advance. Promote online modes of celebrations, online shopping. Discourage unnecessary travel. District authorities must keep a strict watch over local outbreak trends.
What does the advisory say?
Avoid mass gatherings in containment zones and districts with a test positivity rate of over 5%. Guidelines for places of worship, local markets, and malls should be strictly followed. The advisory also stressed on testing, tracking, and treating infections; vaccinations; and following COVID-19 appropriate behavior.
Celebrate with 'utmost precaution'
Further, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan asked states/union territories to strongly deal with violations. Bhushan called for collaboration between health departments, law enforcement agencies, market and trade associations, civil society organizations, and the community. The Centre urged states/UTs to ensure that festivals are celebrated with "utmost precaution." Notably, major festivals such as Diwali will be celebrated next month.
COVID-19 surge fears shroud festivities
Since the second wave of COVID-19 ravaged India around May, apprehensions of a third wave have been circling. Experts had earlier predicted that the third wave will hit around the festive season, however, the common opinion has now shifted to project that cases may not surge exponentially until the virus mutates significantly. Besides, experts assure COVID-19 vaccines are offering enough protection against existing variants.
Delta+ adds to worries
An increasing number of cases of the Delta-plus variant has been reported in Israel, Russia, and the United Kingdom, raising worries for India. Although virologists argue there is no evidence to prove the variant is more transmissible, a deeper investigation is required. Currently, India has reported less than 0.1% of Delta-plus cases, CSIR-IGIB Director Dr. Anurag Agrawal told The Times of India.