The Central government on Monday extended, till January 31 next year, the COVID-19 safety guidelines directing states and Union Territories (UTs) to maintain surveillance and follow containment measures set earlier.
In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has issued fresh order, extending the earlier guidelines for surveillance till January 31, 2021.
The MHA asked states and union territories to keep a strict vigil to prevent any rise in cases during the New Year celebrations and the winter season. It also asked the states and UTs to actively support central authorities in the preparations for an expected vaccination drive.
"While there has been a continuous decline in the active and new COVID-19 cases, there is a need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in cases globally, and the emergence of a new variant of the virus in the UK,” the MHA said.
Accordingly, it said containment zones should continue to be demarcated carefully and prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones.
As per the ministry, there is a clear direction to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and its strict enforcement. It also directed the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities be followed "scrupulously".
“Therefore, the focused approach on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW), as envisaged in the Guidelines issued on 25.11.2020; need to be enforced strictly by States and UTs, ” the order has said.
The MHA has also asked states to be more vigilant owing to New Year celebrations. “Strict vigil is also needed to be maintained to prevent any fresh surge in cases in wake of upcoming New Year celebrations and ongoing winter season which are favourable for the spread of the virus. In this regard, appropriate measures may be taken by the State / UT Governments,” Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla has said in a letter written to all states.
He has also asked states to ensure the support of all the authorities concerned in the roll-out of the COVID-19 vaccine.
“The Government of India has started preparations for administration and roll-out of vaccine for COVID-19. The National Expert Group on Vaccine Administration for COVID-19 (NEGVAC) has recommended prioritization of this vaccine during the initial phases to Health Care Workers, Front Line Workers, Persons aged 50 years and above and those below 50 years of age with comorbidities. States/UTs may instruct the concerned authorities for their active support to the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) in identification, preparation of database, vaccine delivery, storage, security, shipment and vaccination of beneficiaries,” Bhalla’s letter has said.
The Home Secretary also reminded states of the December 18 Supreme Court order where states were asked to strictly enforce Covid containment guidelines and take action against violators.
"Attention is also drawn here that on December 18, 2020, in a suomotu WP (C) No.7, the Hon'ble Supreme Court has issued direction to state governments for strict enforcement of guidelines/SOPs issued by the Union/State governments; strict compliance on COVID-Appropriate behaviour such as wearing masks, keeping social distancing, etc.; stern action taken against those who are violating guidelines/SOPs; regulation of gatherings, etc. Consider imposition of a curfew on weekends/night and to enforce complete lockdown in containment zones," Bhalla said.
“I would like to re-emphasize that essence behind the graded reopening and progressive resumption of activities is to move ahead. However, there is a concomitant need to exercise due care. States/UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19, such as night curfew. However, there shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods including those for cross land-border trade under Treaties with neighbouring countries,” the Home Secretary added.
The Home Secretary urged state governments and UTs to ensure compliance of the guidelines and "direct all authorities concerned for its strict implementation."