The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) today allowed States and Union Territories (UTs) to impose local restrictions to contain the spread of Covid-19, and asked them to ensure strict observance of standard operating procedures (SOPs), with accountability of officials.

In its December guidelines to fight the pandemic, the MHA took note of the recent spike in fresh Covid-19 cases in some States, and asked the States and UTs to focus on “Surveillance, Containment and Caution,” while strictly following the prescribed strategy.

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 in this regard,” the guidelines said.

State and UT Governments shall take all necessary measures to promote Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and “to ensure strict enforcement of wearing of face masks, hand hygiene and social distancing.”

“In order to enforce the core requirement of wearing of face masks, States and UTs may consider administrative actions, including imposition of appropriate fines, on persons not wearing face masks in public and work spaces,” the MHA order said.

For observance of social distancing in crowded places, especially in markets, weekly bazaars and public transport, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) will issue a SOP, which shall be strictly enforced by States and UTs, MHA said.

Amending its earlier order, the MHA allowed States to reduce the ceiling of persons from 200 to 100, or lower, for religious, sports and other events in closed halls.

Allowing local restrictions, based on the assessment of the situation, the guidelines said States and UTs “may impose local restrictions, with a view to contain the spread of COVID-19 such as night curfew.” However, there will be no local lockdown outside the containment zones, without prior consultation with the Central Government. States and UTs also need to enforce social distancing in offices, the guidelines said.

In cities where the weekly Case Positivity Rate is more than 10 per cent, States and UTs have been asked to consider implementing staggered office timings to reduce the number of employees attending office at the same time.

States and UTs will ensure careful demarcation of Containment Zones by the district authorities. There shall be intensive house-to-house surveillance by surveillance teams formed for the purpose.

Listing of contacts will be carried out in respect of all persons found positive, along with tracking, identification, quarantine and follow up of contacts for 14 days (80 per cent of contacts to be traced in 72 hours).

There will be quick isolation of Covid-19 patients in treatment facilities or home (subject to fulfilling the home isolation guidelines).

There shall be no restriction on inter-State and intra-State movement of persons and goods. There is no change in the travel rules or cinemas.

Vulnerable persons, i.e., persons above 65 years of age, persons with co-morbidities, pregnant women, and children below the age of 10 years, are advised to stay at home, except for meeting essential requirements and for health purposes, the guidelines said.