Kolkata’s Park Street saw a huge crowd of revellers on Christmas
NEW DELHI: With 578 Omicron cases detected across 19 states so far, the home ministry on Monday asked the states and Union territories not to let their guard down and consider imposing need-based restrictions to control crowds during the festive season, while also strengthening their health systems to meet any challenge posed by the new variant of concern.
In a letter sent to the chief secretaries of all states and administrators of Union territories, home secretary Ajay Bhalla said that while the country has witnessed overall decline in active cases, Omicron variant is reported to be at least 3 times more transmissible than the Delta variant and is posing a new challenge for the fight against Covid.
Emphasising that the growth trajectory of cases has been very steep in the countries with Omicron-driven surge, the home secretary drew the attention of states and UT administrations to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s directions after a review of status of Covid on December 23, asking people to be ‘satark’ and ‘savdhaan’ (alert and cautious).
“As per his directions, it is important to maintain a high level of vigil and alertness at all levels. State governments should ensure that the health systems in the states are strengthened to meet any challenge posed by the new variant. Further, the state governments/UT administrations should ensure that oxygen supply equipment are installed and are fully functional and the buffer stock of essential drugs should also be maintained,” stated Bhalla.
Recalling the normative framework put out by the ministry of health and family welfare on December 21, the home ministry on Monday issued an order under Disaster Management Act directing states and UTs to consider implementing the framework until January 31, 2022. The home secretary’s letter to states and UTs also asked them to take prompt and appropriate containment measures as per MoHFW’s normative framework, based on their respective assessment of the situation. He further said the state and UT governments may consider imposing need based, local curbs/restrictions, to control the crowd during the festive season.
The MHA order extending Covid containment measures until Jan 31, 2022, asks the states/UTs to ensure that National Guidelines on Covid-19 Management — which ban spitting in public, shops to ensure social distancing among customers and work-from-home to be followed as far as possible along with staggered hours at workplaces — are strictly followed.
It further says the district magistrates shall be responsible for enforcing the Covid containment measures and may impose curbs under Section 144 of CrPC as far as possible. Prompt action under DM Act and IPC was also called for, to deal with violations of Covid norms.
Meanwhile, the home secretary, in his communication to the states, noted that with with distinct presence of the Delta variant and detection of 578 Omicron cases across 19 states thus far, there was need for greater foresight, data analysis, dynamic decision making, and strict and prompt containment actions at the local and district levels.
Stressing the need for adherence to the five-fold strategy, i.e., test-track-treat-vaccination and adherence to Covid-appropriate behaviour to avoid a possible Covid surge, he asked the states and UTs to strictly enforce wearing of face masks and social distancing in public areas.
Bhalla also sought proactive and regular media briefings by the states and UTs to discourage any misinformation in respect of Omicron variant.
Omicron cases have already been reported in 116 countries. Further, surge in cases is also being reported across various countries, especially in the USA, the UK, Europe (France, Italy, Spain), Russia, South Africa, Vietnam, Australia, etc.