The central government has asked all states and the Union Territories (UTs) to issue strict directions to district and other local authorities concerned to regulate the crowded places and take necessary measures for management of Covid-19.
The direction comes in the wake of “blatant violations” of Covid norms in several parts of the country, especially in public transport and hill stations at a time when third wave of the deadly virus has already started in various countries and there is possibility that it will hit India if people fail in following appropriate safety measures specified by the government.
In an advisory to Chief Secretaries of all states, Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) made it clear that the officers concerned should be made personally responsible for any laxity in strict enforcement of Covid-appropriate behaviour.
The advisory sent by Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also advised that 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.
Referring to MHA’s June 29 order issued for the implementation of targeted and prompt action for Covid-19 management in line with Ministry of Health and Family Welfare advisory dated June 28, Bhalla mentioned there is need to ensure if the norms of Covid-appropriate behaviour are not maintained at any establishment, premises, markets, such places shall be liable for the re-imposition of restrictions.
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”.
The MHA advisory came after reports of massive crowds thronging the marketplaces violating norms of social distancing and consequently increased in ‘R’ factor (Reproduction number) in some of the states – a matter of concern.
The advisory warned that “any increase in ‘R’ factor above 1.0 is an indicator of 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.”
Emphasising that the second wave of Covid is not yet over, Bhalla writes: “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 Home Secretary stressed that the 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.
“You would appreciate that we must guard ourselves against complacency and laxity, which creep in as positivity declines. Instead, during the periods of low positivity, efforts must be stepped up to prevent any probable future surge.”
The advisory also stressed on the need for continuous focus on the five-fold strategy for effective management of Covid-19 — Test, Track, Treat, Vaccination and adherence to Covid appropriate behaviour.
The Home Ministry issued the advisory a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi flags crowding issue while interacting with chief ministers of northeast states, saying “the crowds at hill stations and markets where people are not wearing masks or following Covid-19 protocols are a matter of concern”.