Amid the recent spike in COVID-19 cases in the country, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday (March 23) issued new guidelines for effective control of the disease. The guidelines will be effective from April 1 to and will continue to be in place till 30.

“The main focus of the guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains achieved in containing the spread of COVID-19, which was visible in the sustained decline in the number of active cases, continuously for about five months,” MHA said.

The ministry also emphasised that in order to ensure that the resumption of activities is successful and to fully overcome the pandemic, there is a need to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, and strictly observe the guidelines/SOPs issued by MHA and health ministry and other ministries/departments of the central government and state/UT governments.

“Keeping in view a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, which is being witnessed in some parts of the country, the guidelines mandate the state/UT governments to strictly enforce the Test-Track-Treat protocol in all parts of the country; ensure observance of COVID appropriate behaviour by everyone; and, to scale up the vaccination drive, to cover all the target groups,” the MHA added.

A new protocol has been added which is the Test-Track-Treat protocol wherein States and UTs, where the proportion of RT-PCR tests is less, should rapidly increase it, to reach the prescribed level of 70 % or more. The new positive cases, detected as a result of intensive testing, need to be isolated/ quarantined at the earliest and provided timely treatment. Further, as per the protocol, their contacts have to be traced at the earliest and similarly isolated/ quarantined.

COVID appropriate behaviourThe ministry said that state/ UT Governments shall take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour in workplaces and in public, especially in crowded places. For strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, States and UTs may consider administrative actions, including the imposition of appropriate fines. 

Under local restrictions, states and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, at district/ sub-district and city/ ward level, with a view to containing the spread of COVID-19.

There shall be no restriction on inter-state and intra-state movement of persons and goods. The government has called for strict adherence to the prescribed SOPs.

“All activities have been permitted outside Containment Zones and SOPs have been prescribed for various activities. These include movement by passenger trains; air travel; metro trains; schools; higher educational institutions; hotels and restaurants; shopping malls, multiplexes and entertainment parks; yoga centres and gymnasiums; exhibitions, assemblies and congregations, etc,” the release said.

The MHA has said that the SOPs should be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned, who will be responsible for their strict observance. 

Regarding vaccination, the MHA said that all State/ UT Governments should rapidly step up the pace of vaccination to cover all priority groups in an expeditious manner.

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