Centre Extends Covid-19 Control Guidelines Till January 31 With Surge Warning Over UK Virus Variant

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The Centre on Monday maintained the COVID-19 restrictions on various activities, noting that while there has been a continuous decline in active cases in India, there is a need for surveillance, containment and caution due to a surge globally and the emergence of a new variant of the virus in the UK.

In a statement, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) said it has issued fresh guidelines for surveillance with regard to COVID-19 that will remain in force till January 31, as it asked the 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."

Accordingly, containment zones continue to be demarcated carefully; prescribed containment measures strictly followed within these zones; COVID-appropriate behaviour promoted and strictly enforced, and the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) prescribed in respect of various permitted activities followed scrupulously," the MHA said.

Last month, the MHA had said the states and UTs can impose local restrictions like night curfew to check the spread of COVID-19 but made it clear that they will have to consult the Centre before imposing a lockdown outside the containment zones.

"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 and UT governments," it said on Monday.

The guidelines issued last month had said all activities were allowed outside the containment zones except for the following, which were permitted with certain restrictions: international air travel of passengers as permitted by the MHA, cinema halls and theatres with up to 50 percent capacity, swimming pools, only for the training of sportspersons, exhibition halls, only for business-to-business (B2B) purposes.

Social, religious, sports, entertainment, educational, cultural, religious gatherings with a maximum of 50 percent of the hall capacity and with a ceiling of 200 people in closed spaces were allowed by keeping the size of the ground and space in view, in open spaces. However, based on their assessment of the situation, the state governments may reduce the ceiling to 100 people or less in closed spaces, it had said.

There shall be no restriction on the inter-state and intra-state movement of people 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.

India's COVID-19 caseload rose to 1.02 crore with 20,021 infections being reported in a day, while recoveries have surged to 97.82 lakh, according to Union health ministry data updated on Monday. The death toll increased to 1,47,901 with 279 new fatalities, the data updated at 8 am showed. There are 2.77 lakh active coronavirus infections in the country, which comprise 2.72 percent of the total caseload, the data stated.