Coronavirus Update in India: Centre asks states and UTs to step up social distancing measures
Photo by BL Soni

The Centre on Friday has asked state governments and union territories to step up social distancing measures to curb coronavirus outbreak. In a letter dispatched on March 20, 2020, the Department of Health and Family Welfare Secretary Preeti Sudan, has asked states and UTs to regulate hours and work in government offices to reduce congestion and maintain hygiene, regulate working hours in all services except for essential services. Industrial establishments should adopt staggered timings and regulation of crowd in market should also be resorted to.

Private sector needs to consider work from home, wherever feasible while education institutions, theatres, museums, gyms, examination centres to be closed.

According to Sadan, sporting events, competition and religious gatherings should be postponed and the required social distancing be maintained even in smaller gatherings. States and UTs have been told to plan decrease in frequency of services of metros, railways, buses and airplanes, alternate seating to ensure social distancing, disinfection and crowd control in places like railway stations, metro stations, bus stands and airports.

All senior citizens except for public representatives, government servants, and medical professionals should remain indoors and avoid gatherings except for medical reasons and need for essential services.

All children below 10 years of age should remain at home and avoid going to public parks, picnics and other games requiring large number of participants. Further, all health establishments will have to avoid non-urgent hospitalization and minimize elective surgeries.

States and UTs have been told to motivate citizens, particularly the youth, to be volunteers to support the Government’s ongoing efforts in management of COVID-19.

The department secretary has asked States and UTs to regulate prices of masks sanitisers and medicines and ensure their availability. Furthermore, they need to sensitize on the appropriate use of masks and good hygienic practices including washing hands with soap.

Sadan has reminded that States and UTs have necessary authority under the Epidemic Act, 1897, the Disaster Management Act, 2005 and also under various provisions of Criminal Procedure Code and Indian Penal Code. They have been asked to invoke relevant provisions of these laws as warranted in larger public interest. They have also been requested to implement the department’s directions on social distancing to deal with COVID-19.

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