March 24, 2023

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Containment zones back in focus in MHA’s fresh Covid order, stricter rules till December 31

The MHA has released a fresh order to tackle the rising cases of Covid-19 in some states. In its fresh order, the government has asked states to follow a strict set of rules, especially in containment zones.

The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday issued fresh Covid-19 guidelines in view of many states reported a fresh surge in coronavirus cases. The order issued today comes with strict guidelines for surveillance and containment. The measures suggested in the order will be effective from December 1 and last till December 31.
“The main focus of the 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. 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 issued,” said the order.
“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 containing the spread of Covid-19,” it added.
Surveillance and Containment
The MHA order asks states and UTs to ensure careful demarcation of containment zones by district authorities at the micro-level, taking the guidelines prescribed by the MHA.
It may be noted that the list of containment zones will be notified on the websites by the respective District Collectors and by the States/ UTs. This list will also be shared with MoHFW.
Within the demarcated containment zones, all the measures as prescribed by the MHA have to be followed strictly.

Here are some of the rules:

1) Only essential activities shall be allowed in the Containment Zones.
2) There shall be strict perimeter control to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining the supply of essential goods and services.
3) There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by surveillance teams formed for the purpose.
4) Testing shall be carried out as per the prescribed protocol.
5) 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).
6) Quick isolation of Covid-19 patients shall be ensured in treatment facilities/ home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines).
7) Clinical interventions, as prescribed, shall be administered.
8) Surveillance for ILI/ SARI cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.
9) Awareness shall be created in communities on Covid-19 appropriate behaviour.
10) Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed

Containment measures are strictly followed and State/ UT Governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard.
Covid-appropriate behaviour
The Centre has also asked states and UTs to take all necessary measures to promote Covid-19 appropriate behaviour among people. It has asked states to ensure strict enforcement of safety protocols like wearing 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 the imposition of appropriate fines, on persons not wearing face masks in public and workspaces,” the order said.
“For observance of social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transport, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) will issue SOP, which shall be strictly enforced by States and UTs,” it added.

National directives

It may be noted that national directives for Covid-19 management shall continue to be followed throughout the country.
While all activities have been permitted outside containment zones, some have been permitted with certain restrictions.

They are:
2) Cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 per cent capacity.
3) Swimming pools, only for the training of sportspersons.
4) Exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.
5) 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; and keeping of the size of the ground/ space in the view, in open spaces.
However, based on the assessment of the situation, states and UTs have been given the power to further reduce the people allowed to gather in closed spaces to 100 or less.

Local restrictions

Based on their assessment of the situation, states and UTs may also impose local restrictions aimed at containing the spread of Covid-19 such as night curfew. However, states and UTs have been ordered to not impose local lockdowns outside containment zones without prior consultation with the central government.
States and UTs also need to enforce social distancing in offices. “In cities, where the weekly Case Positivity Rate is in more than 10 per cent, States and UTs concerned shall consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures, with a view to reducing the number of employees attending office at the same time, thereby ensuring social distancing,” the MHA order said.
No restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement
The fresh order also makes it clear that there will be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods including those for cross land-border trade. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements.

Protection for vulnerable persons

The order focuses on the need to protect vulnerable persons who are more prone to get infected by Covid-19. Vulnerable people have been advised to stay home unless they have some urgent commitment that requires travel.
“Vulnerable persons, persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes,” the order said.
Last but not the least, the MHA order has said the use of Aarogya Setu mobile application will continue to be encouraged.

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