NEW DELHI: The Union Home Ministry Wednesday said blatant violations of COVID-19 norms have been observed in several parts of the country, including hill stations, and asked states and union territories to take action against officials responsible for ensuring compliance to laid down guidelines.
In a letter to all states and UTs, Union Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla also said Covid-appropriate behaviour is not being adhered to in public transport and massive crowds are thronging marketplaces, violating social distancing norms.
Bhalla emphasised the second wave of Covid is not yet over and there is no room for complacency and everyone must follow Covid-appropriate behaviour.
He said that with the decline in the number of active cases, states and UTs have started reopening economic activities in a gradual manner but the process of relaxing restrictions should be carefully calibrated.
During the periods of low positivity, efforts must be stepped up to prevent any probable future surge, he said.
"However, blatant violations of COVID norms have been observed in several parts of the country, especially in public transport and at hill stations. Massive crowds are also thronging the market places, violating norms of social distancing," he said.
The consequent increase in the 'R'-factor (reproduction number) in some of the states is a matter of concern, Bhalla said.
The 'R'-factor indicates the speed at which the infection is spreading in the country.
An 'R'-factor below 1 indicates that each infected individual is on average passing on the disease to less than one person.
"You may be aware that any increase in 'R' factor above 1.0 is an indicator of spread of COVID-19. Therefore, it is important that the authorities concerned shall be made responsible for ensuring COVID Appropriate Behaviour (CAB) in all crowded places, such as shops, malls, markets, market complexes, weekly markets, restaurants and bars, 'mandis, bus stations, railway platforms, stations, public parks and gardens, gymnasium, banquet halls, marriage halls, stadia, sports complexes (if opened up by the State) as well as at all areas identified as hotspots for transmission of COVID19 virus," he said in the letter.
Any establishment, premises, markets and other such places where Covid-appropriate behaviour is not being maintained is liable for the re-imposition of restrictions and the defaulters may face action under the relevant laws, the home secretary said.
He also said Covid testing needs to be continued with the same vigor as it is extremely essential for an early identification of cases and checking the virus spread.
"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," he said.
Bhalla said there should be continuous focus on the five-fold strategy for effective management of COVID-19 i.e. test-track-treat-vaccinate and adhere to Covid-appropriate behavior.
"I would, therefore, urge you to issue strict directions to the district and all other local authorities concerned to regulate the crowded places and take necessary measures for management of COVID-19. The officers concerned should be made personally responsible for any laxity in strict enforcement of COVID appropriate behaviour," he told the states and UTs in the letter.
"I would also advise that orders issued by the respective state governments and UT administrations and district authorities in this regard should be widely disseminated to the public and to the field functionaries, for their proper implementation," he said.