Govt extends guidelines on Covid-19 surveillance till 31 Jan, warns about new virus strain

Govt extends guidelines on Covid-19 surveillance till 31 Jan, warns about new virus strain

The Central government on Monday extended the existing Covid-19 guidelines till 31 January, 2021 as well as maintained strict surveillance and caution during this period amid concerns of new and highly infectious Covid-19 strain in the UK.

“While there has been a continuous decline in the active and new COVID-19 cases, there is need to maintain surveillance, containment and caution, keeping in view the surge in cases globally, and emergence of a new variant of the virus in the United Kingdom (UK),” the Ministry of Home Affairs stated.

In the extended guidelines, the ministry said that Containment Zones will continue to be demarcated carefully.

Prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones, it said. COVID-appropriate behaviour promoted and strictly enforced and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities “followed scrupulously.

Meanwhile, the government is also focussing on beginning the massive Covid-19 vaccination drive early next year. In relation to that, a two-day dry run to check the preparedness of health authorities for a future nationwide COVID-19 vaccination programme began on Monday in four states.

The exercise will include necessary data entry in Co-WIN, an online platform for monitoring of vaccine delivery, testing receipt and allocation, deployment of team members, mock drill of session sites with test beneficiaries, a well as reporting and evening meeting, the Union Health Ministry said on Friday.

It will also include testing of cold storage and transportation arrangements for COVID-19 vaccine, management of crowd at session sites with proper physical distancing, the ministry said.

Currently, three COVID-19 vaccines candidates of Bharat Biotech, Serum Institute of India and Pfizer are under active consideration of India’s drug regulator and there is hope that early licensure is possible for all or any of them, according to the Union health ministry.

Furthermore, the MHA stated, “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.”

Here is a lowdown on the guidelines issued by the Centre earlier:

Surveillance and Containment

States/ UTs to ensure careful demarcation of containment zones by the district authorities, at the micro level, taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by MoHFW in this regard.

Within the demarcated Containment Zones, containment measures, as prescribed by MoHFW, shall be scrupulously followed, which includes:

Only essential activities shall be allowed in the Containment Zones.

-There shall be strict perimeter control to ensure that there is no movement of people in or out of these zones, except for medical emergencies and for maintaining supply of essential goods and services.

-There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by surveillance teams formed for the purpose.

-Testing shall be carried out as per prescribed protocol.

-Listing of contacts shall be carried out in respect of all persons found positive, along with their tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up of contacts for 14 days (80 percent of contacts to be traced in 72 hours).

-Quick isolation of COVID-19 patients shall be ensured in treatment facilities/ home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines).

-Clinical interventions, as prescribed, shall be administered.

-Surveillance for ILI/ SARI cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.

-Awareness shall be created in communities on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

-Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed Containment measures are strictly followed and State/ UT Governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned in this regard.

COVID-Appropriate behaviour

The ministry also directed that states and UTs government shall take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour and to ensure strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.

In order to enforce the core requirement of wearing of face masks, States and UTs may consider administrative actions, including imposition of appropriate fines, on persons not wearing face masks in public and work spaces.

For observance of social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transport, MoHFW will issue a SOP, the statement further read.

National Directives for COVID-19 Management shall continue to be followed throughout the country, so as to enforce COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

Strict adherence to the prescribed SOPs

All activities have been permitted outside Containment Zones, except for the following, which have been permitted with certain restrictions:

-International air travel of passengers, as permitted by MHA.

-Cinema halls and theatres, with upto 50 percent capacity.

-Swimming pools, only for training of sports persons.

-Exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.

-Social/ religious/ sports/ entertainment/ educational/ cultural/ religious gatherings, with upto a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity, with a ceiling of 200 persons in closed spaces; and keeping of the size of the ground/ space in view, in open spaces.

“However, based on their assessment of the situation, State/ UT Governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less, in closed spaces,” MHA further said,

Local restrictions

States and 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, the state governements shall not impose any local lockdown (State/ District/ sub-division/City level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central Government, clarified the ministry in its order.

States and UTs also need to enforce social distancing in offices. In cities, where the weekly Case Positivity Rate is in more than 10%, states concerned shall consider implementing staggered office timings and other suitable measures, with a view to reduce the number of employees attending office at the same time, thereby ensuring social distancing.

No restriction on Inter-State and intra-State movement

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. No separate permission/ approval/ e-permit will be required for such movements.

Protection for vulnerable persons

Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes.

Use of Aarogya Setu

The use of Aarogya Setu mobile application will continue to be encouraged.

India has the second-highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the world after the United States, and it has recorded 147,901 deaths so far. However, the country has been reporting significantly low daily cases due to extensive Covid-19 testing across states.

On Monday, the Union health ministry reported a daily increase of a little over 20,000 infections, taking the country’s total so far to 10.2 million cases.

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