Putting to rest all speculation about another lockdown in light of the rising Covid-19 numbers in parts of India, the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on Wednesday said no state or union territory can impose lockdown outside of containment zones.
In the latest guidelines for Surveillance, Containment and Caution, the MHA said, "State/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."
However, an exception has been made for night curfew. "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," the MHA said. These local restrictions, however, cannot mean any impediment on inter-state and intra-state movement of people and goods.
The new guidelines will be effective from December 1 to December 31 and were were necessitated after the recent spike in cases reported from Delhi, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Gujarat, Himachal Pardesh and Kerala after the festival season and onset of winter.
The focus of the new guidelines is to ensure proper implementation of SOPs in containment zones and precaution without impeding economic activities.
"It is emphasised that to fully overcome the pandemic, there is need to maintain caution and to strictly follow the prescribed containment strategy, focussed on surveillance, containment and strict observance of the guidelines/ SOPs issued by MHA and Ministry of Health & Family Welfare (MOHFW). Local district, police and municipal authorities shall be responsible to ensure that the prescribed Containment measures are strictly followed," the MHA said.
The guidelines for containment zones say:
1) Careful demarcation of Containment Zones by the district authorities, at the micro level, taking into consideration the guidelines prescribed by MoHFW in this regard.
2) The list of Containment Zones will be notified on the websites by the respective District Collectors and by the States/ UTs. This list will also be shared with MoHFW.
3) Only essential activities shall be allowed in the Containment Zones.
4) 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.
5) Intensive house-to-house surveillance.
6) Intensive Testing as per prescribed protocol.
7) Contact Tracing -- tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up of contacts of covid positive person for 14 days (80 percent of contacts to be traced in 72 hours).
8) 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.
9) Surveillance for ILI/ SARI cases shall be carried out in health facilities or outreach mobile units or through fever clinics in buffer zones.
10) Awareness shall be created in communities on COVID-19 appropriate behaviour.
The local district, police and municipal authorities have once again been held accountable to ensure that the prescribed containment measures are strictly followed.
All activities have been permitted outside Containment Zones except for the following, which have been permitted with certain restrictions:
1. International air travel of passengers, as permitted by MHA.
2. Cinema halls and theatres, with upto 50 percent capacity.
3. Swimming pools, only for training of sports persons.
4. Exhibition halls, only for business to business (B2B) purposes.
5. 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, the guidelines said.