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Opinion

States can put restrictions, but the discussion should be for lockdowns: MHA

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Union states and territories (UT) may impose local restrictions, such as night curfews to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19), but they will need to consult with the central government before imposing a blockade outside the zones. containment, the Union Ministry of the Interior (MHA) said in the new guidelines released Wednesday.

The standard operating procedures (SOPs), applicable to December, did not generate significant changes or impose significant restrictions. Instead, they focused on “Surveillance, Containment and Precaution” and aimed to consolidate “the substantial gains that have been made against the spread of Covid-19.”

The guidelines said that states and UTs “will consider implementing staggered office hours and other appropriate measures” to reduce the number of employees attending the office at the same time in cities where the weekly case positivity rate – proportion of samples found positive for Covid -19 – it is more than 10%. The MHA document also emphasized appropriate Covid-19 behavior, asking states and UT to consider action, including imposing fines on those who do not wear masks in public and work spaces.

The guidelines called on authorities to ensure strict enforcement of the use of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing. He said that to ensure social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transportation, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare will issue a POE, which must be strictly followed.

“… considering the recent increase in new cases in some states / UT, the ongoing festival season and the onset of winter, it is emphasized that to fully overcome the pandemic, it is necessary to maintain caution and strictly follow containment prescribed strategy, focused on surveillance, containment and strict compliance with the guidelines / SOP issued by the MHA and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW).

“The municipal, police and local district authorities will be responsible for ensuring that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed. The states and UT, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, with a view to containing the spread of Covid-19, ”said the Interior Ministry guidelines.

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They added that the state authorities will not impose any blockade outside the containment zones without consulting the Union government. Certainly, the previous guidelines, applicable in November, contained the same clause.

The guidelines came in the context of an increase in Covid-19 infections in various parts of the country after Diwali. Alarmed, the Center has dispatched task forces to eight states (Haryana, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Manipur, Chhattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Punjab) over the past two weeks, while authorities in Delhi and the Center have held multiple meetings. to design strategies to contain what is considered the third wave that has hit the national capital.

As of Wednesday, the total number of cases in the country was 9,222,216 and deaths at 134,699. Over the past seven days (November 17-24), the number of new infections has increased by an average of 43,476 (7.96%) each day across the country. States such as Punjab, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh have recently launched night curfews in select areas to slow the spread of the Sars-Cov-2 virus, which causes Covid-19.

The MHA guidelines asked local authorities to ensure careful demarcation of containment at the micro level. He said the list of buffer zones will be posted on the websites by the district collectors and will be shared with the MOHFW.

Listing standard operating procedures related to containment zones – the epicenter of an infection, the guidelines say that only essential activities will be allowed in these areas and that there will be strict perimeter control, door-to-door surveillance, and rapid isolation of patients with Covid-19. at treatment facilities or at home, as appropriate.

“The list of contacts will be carried out with respect to all the people found positive, together with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow-up of contacts during 14 days (80% of the contacts will be traced in 72 hours)”, says the guide . They added that the surveillance of “ILI / SARI cases” (flu disease and severe acute respiratory infections) will be carried out in health establishments or mobile extension units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.

The MHA document emphasized that all activities are allowed outside of containment zones, although some are allowed with restrictions. These are: international passenger air travel (as permitted by the government); movie theaters and theaters with up to 50% capacity; swimming pools (only for the training of athletes); showrooms (for business purposes only); Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings with a maximum of 50% of the room’s capacity and a ceiling of 200 people in closed spaces. However, authorities can reduce the ceiling to 100 people or less, indoors.

The guidelines called on district, police, and municipal authorities to ensure that containment measures are strictly followed, and also instructed local officials to follow prescribed standard operating procedures for permitted activities with restrictions.

The guidelines also said there will be no restrictions on interstate and intrastate movements, “including cross-border trade under treaties with neighboring countries.” No separate permission or electronic permission will be required for such moves, they said.

The guidelines said that people over 65 and with comorbidities, pregnant women, and children under the age of 10 are advised to stay home, and encourage use of the government’s mobile contact tracing app, Aarogya Setu.

“The spread of disease can be controlled even without implementing a lockdown and strictly following the fundamental principles for the control of any communicable disease, including observing respiratory regulations. All of the spikes that have been seen in this pandemic are due to people letting their guard down and not following appropriate Covid-19 behavior such as wearing a mask, maintaining social distancing and hygiene. The blockade was meant to buy time to prepare the country’s health infrastructure to handle the patient load. That purpose has been solved, ”said Jugal Kishore, head of the department of community medicine at Safdarjung Hospital in Delhi.

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