Amid the recent spike in COVID-19 cases, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Tuesday issued new guidelines for effective control of the disease. The guidelines will be effective from April 1 to 30. "The main focus of the guidelines is to consolidate the substantial gains achieved in containing the spread of COVID-19, which was visible in the sustained decline in the number of active cases, continuously for about five months," MHA said.
"Keeping in view a fresh surge in COVID-19 cases, which is being witnessed in some parts of the country, the guidelines mandate the state/UT governments to strictly enforce the Test-Track-Treat protocol in all parts of the country; ensure observance of COVID appropriate behaviour by everyone; and, to scale up the vaccination drive, to cover all the target groups," the MHA added.
The ministry also emphasised that in order to ensure that the resumption of activities is successful and to fully overcome the pandemic, there is a need to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, and strictly observe the guidelines/SOPs issued by MHA and health ministry and other ministries/departments of the central government and state/UT governments.
A new protocol has been added which is the Test-Track-Treat protocol.
"States and UTs, where the proportion of RT-PCR tests is less, should rapidly increase it, to reach the prescribed level of 70 per cent or more. The new positive cases, detected as a result of intensive testing, need to be isolated/ quarantined at the earliest and provide timely treatment," MHA said in a press release.
Further, as per the protocol, their contacts have to be traced at the earliest and similarly isolated/quarantined. 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.
"State/ UT governments shall take all necessary measures to promote COVID-19 appropriate behaviour in workplaces and in public, especially in crowded places. For strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing, states and UTs may consider administrative actions, including the imposition of appropriate fines," MHA said. States and UTs, based on their assessment of the situation, may impose local restrictions, at district/sub-district and city/ward level, with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19.
"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," the ministry said.
While talking about vaccination, the MHA said: "While the vaccination drive is proceeding smoothly, the pace is uneven across different states and UTs; and, the slow pace of vaccination in some states/ UTs is a matter of concern. Vaccination against COVID-19, in the present scenario, is critical to break the chain of transmission."
All state/UT governments have been advised to step up the pace of vaccination, to cover all priority groups in an expeditious manner. India reported 40,715 new COVID-19 cases, 29,785 recoveries, and 199 deaths in the last 24 hours, as per the union health ministry on Tuesday morning.
The country started its vaccination drive on January 16 with priority given to all healthcare and frontline workers in the first phase.
The second phase started on March 1 where doses are being administered to people above the age of 60 and those between 45 and 59 years with specific comorbidities. From April 1, the government has decided to vaccinate all people above 45 years of age.