States allowed to impose local curbs: Centre's new COVID-19 guidelines
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Tuesday issued new guidelines for the containment of COVID-19. The Ministry noted that a fresh surge in coronavirus infections has been witnessed in several parts of the country. It also cautioned that the situation might aggravate with the upcoming festivals, noting general laxity in compliance with COVID-19 appropriate behavior. The following guidelines are effective from April 1.
Effective enforcement of 'Test-Track-Treat' protocol
The Ministry recommended that tests conducted in states should be uniformly distributed across all districts, and the proportion of RT-PCR tests should be scaled up on a "best effort basis" to 70% or more. New positive cases must be isolated at the earliest, and accordingly, containment zones (where only essential activities are allowed) have to be demarcated at the micro-level by district authorities.
Centre/States to ensure adequate COVID-19-dedicated health infrastructure
The central and state governments have been directed to ensure adequate availability of COVID-19 dedicated health and logistics infrastructure to ensure proper treatment. The capacity building of health workers and professionals shall be an ongoing exercise, the Ministry said.
States/UTs allowed to impose local restrictions
States/UTs have been allowed to impose local restrictions at the district/sub-district and city/ward level based on their assessment of the COVID-19 situation. There shall be no restriction on the inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods including those for cross-land-border trade under treaties with neighboring countries. No separate permission/approval/e-permit will be required for such movement.
States/UTs may consider action against those not wearing masks
State/UT governments must promote COVID-19 appropriate behavior, and ensure the wearing of face masks, hand hygiene, and social distancing. Face masks are mandatory and states/UTs have been allowed to consider administrative action on those in violation. Social distancing must be followed in crowded spaces, such as markets or public transport. Previously issued protocols for travel in aircrafts, trains, and metros must be strictly enforced.
All activities allowed outside containment zones
Outside containment zones, all activities are allowed. However, Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) have been issued to restrict some activities: movement by passenger trains; air travel; metro trains; schools; higher educational institutions; hotels and restaurants; shopping malls, multiplexes, and entertainment parks; yoga centers and gymnasiums; exhibitions, assemblies, and congregations, etc. SOPs shall be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned, the Ministry said.
Vulnerable groups advised to take necessary precautions
Vulnerable groups such as persons above the age of 65, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10, are advised to take necessary precautions. The use of Aarogya Setu app must continue on a "best effort basis" on compatible phones. District Magistrates shall strictly enforce these measures. State/UT governments may use provisions under CrPC Section 144 to enforce social distancing.
Face masks remain compulsory; six-feet distancing to be ensured
Under national directives, face masks are mandatory in public places, workplaces, and during transport. Individuals must maintain a distance of at least six feet in public. Shops shall ensure physical distancing among customers. Spitting in public places will attract fines.
Here are the guidelines for workplaces
Work from home should be followed as much as possible. Work/business hours in offices, workplaces, shops, markets, and industrial/commercial establishments should be staggered. Provisions for thermal screening, hand-wash/sanitizer shall be made available at all entry/exit points and common areas. Workplaces, common places, and all common points of contact shall be frequently sanitized. Social distancing must be followed at the workplace.
Ministry recommends scaling up pace of vaccination
The Ministry noted that the pace of vaccination is uneven across states. Hence, all states have been recommended to rapidly step up the pace of COVID-19 vaccination to cover all priority groups.