Centre issues COVID-19 'Surveillance, Containment and Caution' guidelines for Dec; cases climb past 92 lakh

FP Staff
·10-min read

As India's coronavirus caseload crossed 92 lakh on Wednesday, the Union Ministry of Home Affairs, in fresh guidelines for December, said that states and UTs can impose local restrictions like night curfews but will have to consult the Centre before imposing lockdown in areas outside containment zones.

In containment zones however, containment measures prescribed by the health ministry will have to be scrupulously followed, said the guidelines.

On the backdrop of a spurt in new cases, some states have already announced measures like night curfews in certain cities. On Wednesday, Punjab chief minister Amarinder Singh announced that night curfew will be reimposed in the state from 1 December while Sunday lockdown will return to Uttarakhand's Dehradun district from this week.

In Delhi, which has been witnessing a surge in infection, some district authorities have been setting up micro-containment zones where two or more infections have been recorded, reported news agency PTI quoting officials.

According to the latest data, there are 4,980 such containment zones in the National Capital with a maximum of 863 such zones in the southwest district. In the northeast district too, authorities have been using two or more cases criterion to carve out more micro-containment zones.

Ahmed Patel passes away

Senior Congress leader and the party's top strategist Ahmed Patel died in a Gurugram hospital on Wednesday due to multi-organ failure. He was suffering from complications related to COVID-19.

Patel (71), who was critical for a few days, was admitted to the Medanta hospital in Gurugram on 15 November after he developed complications. His son Faisal said he died at 3.30 am.

"With profound grief and sorrow, I regret to announce the sad and untimely demise of my father, Mr. Ahmed Patel at 25/11/2020, 03.30 am. After testing positive for Covid-19 around a month back, his health worsened further due to multiple organ failures. May Allah grant him Jannatul firdaus, inshallah," he said in a tweet.

He also urged all well-wishers to adhere to the COVID-19 regulations by avoiding mass gatherings.

The veteran Congress leader had himself announced on Twitter on 1 October that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and all those who had come in close contact of him should also get tested.

Patel was currently a member of the Rajya Sabha from Gujarat and the Congress treasurer. He was an eight-time parliamentarian €" five times in the Rajya Sabha, three times in the Lok Sabha. His last Rajya Sabha election in 2017 was contested very keenly amid charges of horse-trading.

President Ram Nath Kovind, Vice President M Venkaiah Naidu and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, besides Congress leaders, including party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, and Union ministers condoled Patel's demise.

MHA issues guidelines for December

The MHA issued guidelines for "Surveillance, Containment and Caution", which will take effect from 1 December and continue till the end of the month and said the main focus of the directive is to consolidate the substantial gains which are visible in the steady decline in the number of active cases in the country.

In view of the recent spike in new cases in a few states and UTs, the ongoing festival season, and the onset of winter the guidelines emphasised on the need to maintain caution and strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy.

"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, state and UT governments shall not impose any local lockdown (state/ district/ sub-division/City level), outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the central government," the guidelines said.

The ministry said that local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed and state and UT governments shall ensure the accountability of the officers concerned.

States and UTs are mandated to strictly enforce containment measures, SOPs on various activities and COVID-appropriate behaviour and exercise caution and regulate crowds, a home ministry statement said.

According to the guidelines, all activities have been permitted outside containment zones except for some which have been allowed with certain restrictions.

These activities are: international air travel of passengers, as permitted by MHA, cinema halls and theatres, with up to 50 percent capacity, swimming pools, only for training of sports persons and exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.

Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural and religious gatherings in closed spaces are allowed with up to a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity with a ceiling of 200 persons. In open spaces, people will be allowed as per the size of the ground.

However, based on their assessment of the situation, state and UT governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 persons or less in closed spaces.

The 19 SOPs for permitted activities, which have been enclosed with the fresh guidelines, shall be strictly enforced by the authorities concerned, the ministry said.

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 and no separate permission, approval, e-permit will be required.

According to the guidelines, states and UTs will ensure careful demarcation of containment zones by the district authorities at the micro-level in keeping with the guidelines prescribed by the health ministry.

The list of containment zones will be notified on the websites by the respective district collectors and by the states and UTs and this list will also be shared with the Union Health Ministry.

Within the demarcated containment zone, containment measures, as prescribed by the health ministry shall be scrupulously followed. Only essential activities shall be allowed in the containment zones and 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 the supply of essential goods and services.

There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by teams formed for the purpose and testing shall be carried out as per prescribed protocol.

The 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 and home, subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines, and clinical interventions, as prescribed, shall be administered, the guidelines said.

Surveillance for Influenza-Like Infections (ILI), Severe Acute Respiratory Infections (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. The national directives for COVID-19 management shall continue to be followed throughout the country to enforce COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.

To enforce the core requirement of wearing of face masks, states and UTs may take actions, including imposing appropriate fines failing to adhere to it.

The health ministry will issue SOPs for social distancing, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transport, which shall be strictly enforced by the states and UT. The states and UTs also need to enforce social distancing in offices and cities.

Where the weekly case positivity rate is more than 10 percent, states and UTs shall consider implementing staggered office timings and other measures to reduce the number of employees attending office at the same time, in order to ensure social distancing.

Country's active cases go up

India's COVID-19 caseload rose to 92,22,216 with 44,376 new cases reported on Wednesday, while the number of recoveries surged to 86.42 lakh. The toll has reached 1,34,699 with 481 new fatalities.

The active caseload shot up to 4,44,746, an increase of 6,079 cases from Tuesday, even though it remained below five lakh for the 15th consecutive day, accounting for 4.82 percent of the total cases, the data showed.

The number of people who have recuperated from the disease surged to 86,42,771, pushing the national recovery rate to 93.72 percent, while the COVID-19 case fatality rate stands at 1.46 percent.

According to the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), over 13.48 crore samples were tested for COVID-19 up to 24 November, including 11,59,032 on Tuesday.

The ministry said 77.53 percent of the new recoveries are contributed by 10 states and UTs. Kerala leads the tally with 5,149, followed by Delhi (4,943) and Maharashtra (4,086).

Ten states and UTs accounted for 76.51 per cent of the 44,376 new cases, with Delhi reporting the highest of 6,224, followed by Maharashtra (5,439) and Kerala (5,420), the ministry said.

Of the 481 case fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, 74.22 percent are concentrated in 10 states and Union territories. Delhi reported 109 fresh deaths, while West Bengal saw a fatality count of 49 and Uttar Pradesh 33.

Micro-containment zones in Delhi

In Delhi, where cases have been on the rise, micro-containment zones have been formed in the southwest and northwest districts, while other districts were also using a flexible approach to ensure restricting virus transmission in the best possible way, PTI quotes a senior government official as saying.

The Delhi Epidemic Disease COVID-19 Regulation, 2020, authorises district magistrates to seal off a geographical area, banning entry and exit of the population from the containment zone and to take any measures directed by the health department to prevent the spread of the disease.

Normally, an area is marked as a containment zone where three or more COVID-19 cases are detected. But it is a dynamic exercise, conducted by district authorities on a need-based manner, officials said.

The southwest district magistrate had on Sunday issued an order for setting up of micro-containment zones in view of "large scale outbreak" in the district.

A senior district official said the step was taken for better enforcement of quarantine measures.

Fresh curbs in Punjab

Fresh curbs were also announced in Punjab amid fears of a second wave of the infection in the wake of the grim situation in Delhi-NCR.

Night curfew ( from 10 pm to 5 am) will be implemented from 1 December, said Chief Minister Amarinder Singh after a review meeting, according to a government statement.

The fine for not wearing masks and ignoring social distancing norms too shall be hiked from the present Rs 500 to Rs 1,000.

The curbs, which shall be reviewed on 15 December, also curtail operation timings of hotels, restaurants and marriage places and they will have to be closed by 9.30 pm.

Given the inflow of patients from Delhi for treatment in Punjab, it has also been decided to review and optimise the availability of beds in the state's private hospitals.

The chief minister has also directed the health and medical education departments to make emergency appointments of specialists, super-specialists, nurses and paramedics, to further augment the manpower.

On the testing front, the CM stressed the need to fully utilise the 25,500 daily RT-PCR testing capacity and directed targeted and regular testing of potential super spreaders, including government officials.

To ensure that no deaths take place in home isolation, Singh said the agency hired to look into these cases should keep close tabs on such patients.

Sunday lockdown returns to Dehradun

Meanwhile, Dehradun district magistrate Ashish Shrivastava issued an order seeking strict compliance of the lockdown on Sundays for carrying out sanitisation drives in busy market areas.

Only shops selling essentials like medicines, fruits, vegetables, milk, petrol pumps and LPG agencies will be allowed to open.

Weekend lockdown had been temporarily suspended in the district due to the festive season. COVID-19 cases have been on the rise in Uttarakhand with Dehradun district reporting the maximum number of infections in the state for several weeks.

With inputs from PTI

Also See: Local curbs allowed, but no lockdown outside containment zones without consulting Centre: MHA guidelines

India's COVID-19 caseload rises to 90.95 lakh with 45,209 new cases; toll reaches 1,33,227

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