Step Up Efforts To Prevent Any Future COVID Surge, Regulate Crowded Places: Centre To States

New Delhi: The Centre on Wednesday asked all states and the Union Territories (UTs) to guard against complacency in view of the drop in infection rate and regulate crowded places while ensuring COVID-appropriate behaviour.

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“You would appreciate that we must guard ourselves against complacency and laxity, which creep in as positivity declines. Instead, during periods of low positivity, efforts must be stepped up to prevent any probable future surge,” Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla wrote to the chief secretaries.

Referring to the “blatant violations” of Covid norms in public transport and hill stations, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) warned the officers concerned against any laxity in strict enforcement of the norms as this could lead to the onset of the third wave of the deadly virus.

He also mentioned massive crowds thronging the marketplaces violating norms of social distancing and the consequent increase in ‘R’ factor (Reproduction number) in some of the states. Any increase in ‘R’ factor above 1.0 is an indicator of the spread of COVID.

“Therefore, it is important that authorities concerned shall be made responsible for ensuring COVID-appropriate behaviour in all crowded places, such as shops, malls, weekly markets, market complexes, restaurants and bars, mandis, bus stations, railway platforms or stations, public parks and gardens, gymnasiums, banquet halls, sports complexes, as well as areas identified as hotspots for transmission of COVID-19 virus.”

Notably, Prime Minister Narendra Modi raised concern over crowds at hill stations and markets, where people are not wearing masks or following COVID protocols, while interacting with chief ministers of northeast states,

The orders issued by the respective state governments or UT administrations, district authorities in this regard should be widely disseminated to the public and to the field functionaries for their proper implementation, he said in the letter to the chief secretaries.

Restrictions would be reimposed at any establishment, premises, markets, where the norms of COVID-appropriate behaviour are not maintained, he said.

The advisory made it clear that such actions are necessary for containing the spread of Covid-19, and that “the defaulter shall also be liable for action under the relevant laws”.

Bhalla further stressed that the second wave of COVID is not yet over. “We ought to remember that while the reach of vaccination is increasing considerably, there is no room for complacency and hence COVID appropriate behaviour must continue in line with our philosophy of dawai bhi, kadai bhi (medicine as well as restrictions).”

The advisory directed the states and UTs to focus on the five-fold strategy for effective management of Covid-19 — Test, Track, Treat, Vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour. “Testing needs to be continued with the same vigour, as adequate testing is extremely essential in terms of checking the virus and early identification of cases,” he said.

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