MHA extends Covid guidelines till Sept 30, asks states to ensure no large gathering in coming festivals

Extending the ongoing COVID-19 guidelines for one more month till September 30, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla said the overall pandemic situation now appears to be largely stable at the national level, except for the localised spread observed in a few states.

The Centre on Saturday extended existing Covid-19 guidelines until September 30, asking states to ramp up testing and avoid large gatherings during the festive season. It has pointed out a “downward trend” in enforcing Covid-appropriate behaviour, which, it has said, is a cause for concern in the wake of rising cases.

The orders were issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs under the Disaster Management Act, and was followed by a letter from union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla to chief secretaries of all states and administrators of all union territories.

“Enforcement of COVID-19 appropriate behavior is essential for tackling the pandemic on a sustained basis. Weekly Enforcement Data, received from States/UTs regarding wearing face mask in public, maintaining social distancing norms, imposition of fines etc., indicates a downward trend in enforcement. States and UTs are requested to augment their enforcement efforts for effectively checking transmission of the disease,” Bhalla’s letter read, asking states to make officers personally responsible for any laxity.

Acknowledging that the pandemic is stable, Bhalla has cautioned states against complacency.

“The overall pandemic situation at the national level now appears to be largely stable, except for the localised spread of the virus in a few states. Moreover, the total number of active cases and high case positivity in some districts continues to remain a matter of concern,” Bhalla has said in his letter.

Bhalla has asked states having high positivity in their districts to enforce pro-active containment measures so as to effectively arrest the spike in cases and to contain the spread of transmission.

“It is important to identify warning signs of potential surges early on and to take appropriate measures to curb the spread. This would require a localized approach,” the letter has said.

Bhalla has advised states to take suitable measures to avoid large gatherings during the coming festive season and, if required, impose local restrictions with a view to curb such large gatherings.

“In all crowded places, COVID appropriate behaviour should be strictly enforced. We need to continue focus on the five-fold strategy i.e. Test-Track-Treat-Vaccination and adherence to COVID Appropriate Behaviour, for effective management of COVID-19,” the letter read.

Claiming that the country had made significant progress in vaccination, Bhalla asked states to continue with their vaccination programme so as to inoculate maximum number of eligible persons.

“Further, it must be ensured that areas having no virus or low virus transmission are adequately protected by progressively ramping up testing and other measures like ILI/SARI surveillance, market surveillance, etc. with strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour,” the letter said.

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